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Exit Sarkozy, enter Hollande

Paris: François Hollande, France’s first socialist president in nearly 20 years, was sworn in at the Elysée Palace on Tuesday in a deliberately low-key ceremony ahead of a meeting in Berlin with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, at which he will begin his quest to temper Europe’s austerity drive.


One in, one out: France's outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomes his successor Francois Hollande upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace for the formal handover of power ceremony. Pics/AFP

In his first speech as president, Hollande promised a new way forward for Europe and economic recovery in France, vowing a five-year term that would be fair and just. He called for France to unite, saying he would bring the country much-needed calm and reconciliation, and fight against divisions and racism.

Hollande said he was aware of the challenge that awaited him and the difficult conditions: weak growth, high unemployment, a France that is not competitive, and a Europe struggling to find economic growth.

He said his priorities would be education and giving back hope to French youth. He promised “scrupulous sobriety of behaviour” as president, a subtle contrast to his predecessor, the rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy who was dubbed President Bling-Bling.

Hollande saluted the contributions of previous presidents, including Jacques Chirac’s attachment to the “values of the Republic”. Hollande, who has styled himself as Mr Normal, kept the usually pomp-filled presidential inauguration as modest as possible, inviting just three dozen or so private guests to join the 350 officials at the event. His partner, the political journalist Valérie Trierweiler, was present, but their children were not.

After walking up the red carpet in the Elysée courtyard, Hollande retired with Sarkozy for a private meeting at which presidents have traditionally handed on the codes to France’s nuclear strike force. After a handshake for the departing Sarkozy, Hollande was presented with the official chain of office, a gold collar weighing nearly one kg engraved with the names of all Fifth Republic presidents. He was then taken up the Champs Elysées in an open-topped hybrid Citroën.

Dark skies rain on Hollande’s parade
Francois Hollande was yesterday sworn in as the new Socialist President of France — before getting drenched on an open-topped drive up the Champs Elysee. The 57-year-old was inaugurated in a simple ceremony. But it was during his drive up that everything started to go wrong. As he poked his head out of the sunroof, heavy rain started to pour, drenching him.

When valerie outdid Bruni
As Nicolas Sarkozy handed over the Presidential reigns to Francois Hollande, Carla Bruni too relinquished her role. Once the darling of the fashion world, it seemed as if Carla had relinquished her style nous along with her Premiere Dame status. Valerie Trierweiler, on the other hand, went for all-out glamour, her hair styled into curls, and dressed in a chiffon-sleeved black dress, and a white coat.

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