François Hollande Biography

President (non-U.S.) (1954–)
François Hollande, a longtime member of the French Socialist Party, defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 to become the 24th president of France.


François Hollande was born in Rouen, France, in 1954. He attended a series of elite French schools and joined the Socialist Party in 1979. Elected to the Ussel town council in 1983, Hollande won a National Assembly seat five years later and eventually became chair of the Socialist Party. In 2012, he defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy to become France's 24th president. However, his support plummeted due to controversies over his pro-business measures and the rise of terrorist attacks on French soil, and in late 2016 he announced he would not seek a second term.

Early Life

François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande was born on August 12, 1954, in Rouen, France, to a right-wing physician father and a progressive social worker mother. The family moved to Paris when Hollande was 13, and after graduating from the public school system, he attended the Institut de Sciences Politiques and then the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, France's top business school. He then entered the École Nationale d'Administration.

Early Career

Hollande demonstrated an early interest in politics and volunteered for François Mitterrand's second unsuccessful presidential campaign while he was still a student. Five years later, in 1979, he joined the Socialist Party. By then, Mitterrand had been elected on his third try, and he appointed Hollande a junior economic advisor. Hollande held this post until he went to work for Max Gallo, the press secretary to former prime minister Pierre Mauroy.

Hollande began serving on the Ussel town council in 1983, and was elected to the National Assembly in 1988. Although he lost his seat in 1993, he reclaimed it in 1997. That same year, Lionel Jospin tapped Hollande to be the Socialist Party chairman. Hollande was then elected mayor of Tulle in 2001 and held the post until 2008.

Presidential Race

In March 2011, Hollande announced that he would seek the Socialist Party nomination for president. He faced five other candidates in the primary, including Ségolène Royal and the frontrunner, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. When Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on sexual assault charges, Hollande took the lead in polls. He won the party's nomination on October 16, 2011. The following January, Hollande outlined a list of policies that he would seek to enact if elected, including increasing taxes on corporations, reducing the retirement age, establishing a public investment bank to promote French industry, and granting marriage and adoptions rights to same-sex couples.

President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he would seek re-election in February 2012 and promptly began criticizing Hollande’s proposals, claiming they would be disastrous for the economy. Polls initially showed a close race, but Hollande pulled ahead comfortably in the second ballot. He won France's presidential election on May 6, 2012, and was sworn in on May 15. He was the first candidate in 31 years to unseat an incumbent president after a single term.

French President

Hollande scored several victories early in his term as president. In 2013, he backed military intervention in Mali and the Central African Republic, and made good on his promise to legalize marriage and adoption for same-sex couples. He closed the year with the successful passage of the so-called “millionaire’s tax” to combat rising salaries, and followed with the "responsibility pact" to extend tax breaks to businesses.

However, by that point Hollande's approval ratings were already dwindling, and a series of terrorist attacks on French soil, beginning with the January 2015 killings at the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, fostered more unrest. Following a larger coordinated attack on Paris in November that left 130 dead, Hollande attempted to strip convicted terrorists holding dual citizenship of their French nationality, a move that was criticized by members of his own party.

Meanwhile, measures to jump-start the economy were met with resistance. The "Macron Law," named for French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, passed in July 2015 after the invoking of a clause that bypassed Parliament. A follow-up pro-business bill, again pushed through without Parliamentary vote, was met with widespread protests following its July 2016 passage.

The following month, it was announced that France’s unemployment rate had dipped below 10 percent for the first time since 2012, but the good news did little to improve Hollande's historically low ratings. The October release of the book A President Shouldn’t Say That ..., which included Hollande's incendiary comments about the judiciary and Muslims, brought additional embarrassment for the embattled president.

In December, Hollande announced that he would forego running for a second term with the hope it would benefit both his party and his country during a time of rising nationalist sentiments. “As a Socialist, because that is my life’s commitment, I cannot accept, I cannot come to terms with the dispersion of the left, with its splitting up,” he said. “Because that would remove all hope of winning in the face of conservatism and, worse yet, of extremism.”

Personal Life

While a student at Ecole Nationale d'Administration University, Hollande met and began dating Ségolène Royal. They lived as domestic partners but did not marry, having four children together. Royal had political aspirations of her own and, in 2007, she ran for the presidency against Hollande's wishes. A few weeks after her defeat, the couple announced their separation.

Mere days after they made the announcement, Royal published a book accusing Hollande of having an affair with Valerie Trierweiler, a political journalist with Paris Match. Hollande admitted to the affair, and the couple went public with their relationship.

In January 2014, photos published in Closer magazine allegedly showed Hollande being taken via a scooter to a Paris apartment that had recently been lent to French actress Julie Gayet, unveiling their secret romance. Hollande and Trierweiler subsequently split, with the journalist going on to publish a tell-all book about their time together.

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