Chatter: Bonjour, Président Hollande




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Need to know:
France wakes up this morning to a new president-elect: François Hollande, the Socialist candidate who won yesterday's run-off with just under 52 percent of the vote.

As the last of the victory banners are cleared away, the presidential palace's current occupant, center-right Nicolas Sarkozy, will soon pack his bags – knowing that he's the first French president to have to do so after just one term since 1981.

Indeed, for many French voters, the election was more about getting rid of Sarkozy than embracing Hollande. The Socialist challenger made sure to distance himself from unpopular work and pension reforms introduced under Sarkozy, as well as Europe-wide public spending cuts. "Austerity can no longer be the only option," Hollande told supporters last night.

His alternative? We've yet to see. As Hollande said at the end of his campaign last week, "Now, it gets hard." 

Want to know:
Meanwhile, in Greece... Voters in the country's parliamentary election deserted the two main parties, both of which had backed tough austerity measures.

The conservative New Democracy party and the Socialist PASOK, which have dominated Greek politics for decades, took less than a third of the vote between them. Far-left coalition Syriza quadrupled the number of its seats, while neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn is set to enter parliament for the first time. 

Coming on the same day as François Hollande's victory in France, the result is a sign that a backlash has begun against the austerity approach to Europe's debt crisis – and those held responsible for it.

Dull but important:
You know who else is president (again)? That's right, Vladimir Putin, who was sworn in this morning as Russian president for the third time. Citizens have been given a four-day "gardening" holiday to celebrate.

"I consider it to be the meaning of my whole life and my obligation to serve my fatherland and our people," Putin told assembled dignitaries at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow.

Just, er, as long as you don't plan to spend your whole life doing it, Vlad. He's already had 12 years as either president or prime minister of Russia; another six as president will make him the country's longest-serving ruler since Stalin. 

Just because:
Good Muslims should not take part in street protests, according to some of Malaysia's leading Islamic scholars.

The National Fatwa Council has ruled that "no one is exempted and cannot support any efforts that can cause harm, anxiety or unrest among Muslims to the point of the community being split," by which they mean "rioting, causing disturbance and damaging public property."

Funny, that, since thousands of Malaysians have rallied in recent weeks against political corruption and one-party dominance, inspired by a movement that began in other Muslim-majority countries – the Arab Spring.

Strange but true:
A British woman has legally changed her name to a string of 161 words.

The person formerly known as Dawn McManus, of Hartlepool, England, made the switch to raise money for the charity she set up in memory of her son, who died of a brain tumor aged 16.

That name in full, here. Eh... how's she going to sign it?