French left-wingers have been worried ever since Francois Hollande was chosen to be the Socialist candidate for president.
With an inadequate and confused campaign Mr Hollande, who has no government experience, didn't seem a credible candidate to confront Nicolas Sarkozy, and tackle the economic crisis. So far.
However, recent polls suggest Hollande, branded "Mr Normal" by the right, will comfortably win the presidential race this Spring. He is predicted to win 27.5% of votes in round one, with Mr Sarkozy, who has yet to officially declare his candidacy, on 24%. These numbers reflect the success of his first major rally outside of Paris on Sunday, a test Hollande passed honourably.
Hollande took the French by surprise. With a very personal speech, he set himself in the footseps of another Francois - Mitterand - the only other socialist president of the Fifth Republic.
Labelling himself as a regular Frenchman, Hollande said he vincated "a certain simplicity" and had always advanced the powerful electoral argument of being a "normal" candidate in opposition to Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Sarkozy.
The French president was not mentioned once in Hollande's near-90-minute speech except indirectly: "I want to confide you my secret, that I have kept for a long time: I love people, like others are fascinated with money."
And it's money that was at the centre of his argument as Hollande delivered a virulent but lyrical accusation against the financial world.
"In this battle, I will tell you who my real enemy is: it doesn't have a name, a face, or a party, it will never be a candidate, it will therefore never be elected. This enemy is the finance world. Under your eyes, in 20 years, the finance took control of the economy, society and even our lives."
Thursday brought the second most important test so far for the candidate with the release of his electoral programme: "60 proposals in a manifesto that he will defend during the next three months and which Le Monde described as "Churchillian".
Judging the economic situation worse than a year ago, Hollande presented himself as the architect of a just recovery, which would spare the middle class and require an increased solidarity effort from the richest in French society.
Promising to undo the Sarkozy legacy, Hollande said that cancelling €29 billion of tax breaks for the richest tranche of the population and big business while cutting tax for small firms would allow him to balance the budget by 2017 and at the same time create 60,000 teaching jobs and 150,000 state-funded jobs for first-time workers as part of €20 billion euros in new spending.
His declared goal is to create an exemplary republic in which foreigners who have lived in France for five years will be able to vote in local elections and where homosexual couples will have the right to get married and adopt children. He also proposes to withdraw all French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012.
While the newspaper Liberation declared that Hollande finally offered a viable option of social democracy in France, the Sarkozy camp denounced his "arrogance" and "self-importance.
"For a couple of days now, we are to ask ourselves if an election is necessary, as Mr Hollande seems so convinced that his is going to win", declared Jean-Francois Cope, secretary-general of the president's party.
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