French politics

An ordinary president. Till when?

François Hollande arriving at Bruxelles-Midi (Brussel-South) Station, the 23rd of May

François Hollande arriving at Bruxelles-Midi (Brussel-South) Station, the 23rd of May

The 23rd of May, Thalys passengers to Brussels noticed a special guest boarded with them. It was François Hollande who went to the traditional European Council. Very smiling and as usual, the French President talked with the press and some people even took a picture with him.

A lot of people, present at Gare du Nord, were quite satisfied even happy considering it is normal an incumbent president takes train as everybody, without putting on airs. Nonetheless, some people disapproved this attitude as the president’s bodyguards and security officers who expressed their feeling and their critics in to La Libre Belgique’s correspondent in Paris. For them, the new French president is not really aware his position implying a extraordinary safety measures, non-compatible with a normal life.

François Hollande said during the presidential race, he wished to be as “Mister Normal”, an ordinary man, doing ordinary things as everyone. Of course, he wants to make the difference vis-à-vis Nicolas Sarkozy and his hyper-presidency. This is a subtle way to communicate on his image he wants to give, a president-citizen close to people and appreciating people, at the far opposite of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Can François Hollande still keep this ordinary president posture when his position is far to be ordinary, as he recently conceded during the campaign? Whatever he wants or not, the French president knows he is more exposed than others and he is submitted to a special protection. This protection is needed and may create a distance between the chief and the French people. François Hollande is clearly aware of this and that explains why he wants to appear as an ordinary president that means a man keeping in touch with his people and not disconnected of the reality. In other words, a citizen as another, as a mayor can be a rural town.

A trade-off should be found to conciliate these two exigencies: acting as an ordinary president and guarantying the safety of the function. The bodyguards and other security officers are maybe going to adapt themselves to the François Hollande’s personality, a man needing to keep in touch with people, as Jacques Chirac in the past. Nonetheless, rather than deal with an ordinary president, maybe François Hollande should appear as a “classic” president which does not mean he will be far of the reality and the preoccupations of French people.

Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated because he behaved as a capricious and exaggerating man, which irritated French people who voted for a man with no pretentiousness and excess, corresponding to an ordinary presidency. Nonetheless, François Hollande will have to do some concessions and give up some possibilities as moving in Paris with his scooter or taking the Thalys to go in Brussels, for safety reasons and if the context demands, as the function.