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A new spring in Paris

Hollande. AP AND Sarkozy.  

PARIS, France – There is jubilation on the streets Sunday evening (Monday morning in Manila) in the City of Light as the French welcome a new President. Unofficial results show that Socialist candidate Francois Hollande is France’s new President, its first Socialist President since the late Francois Mitterand ended his two terms in 1995.

(Mitterand had a soft spot for the late President Cory Aquino, whom he invited to be France’s state visitor on the eve of its Bicentennial in July 1989.)

Hollande vanquished President Nicholas Sarkozy at the polls, said to be only the second sitting French president to be defeated after his first term in office. Even with the appeal of his beautiful wife Carla Bruni, Sarkozy’s economic policies made him unpopular with his constituents.

Voting started here at public schools at 9 a.m., Sunday, but life in this tourist-rich city went on as usual. Buses disgorged thousands of tourists at popular landmarks like the Sacre Coeur Cathedral while shops remained closed, as they normally are on Sundays (except along the Champs Elysees).

But at 6 p.m. when the unofficial results showed that Hollande was the new French president, there was jubilation in many parts of the city, especially on the Left Bank, where the Socialist party has its headquarters. Several motorists drove around town tooting their horns in celebration and an after-party was expected at another Paris landmark, the Arc d’ Triomphe. By sundown at 9 p.m., thousands had congregated along Champs Elysees towards the Arc d’ Triomphe, a mini EDSA celebration of sorts to this wide-eyed tourist.

The quickness in the vote count and the faith the French had in the reliability of the results was impressive and enviable. As I write this — 9 p.m., Sunday in France, or 12 hours after the polls opened — Sarkozy had already conceded, saying: “Francois Hollande is the President of France and he must be respected.”

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To have witnessed such political maturity, not just from an individual but from a country, makes me sigh, and hope some more that our own journey to political adulthood won’t take forever.

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