Sunday: by noon on voting day, the national turn-out promised to be even higher than it was in the first round. But it looked much slacker at the two polling stations I visited in Bordeaux, side by side, in separate classrooms at an elementary school in a modest part of town. At 7 p.m. there were still a few stragglers. By eight, when the clock stopped, there were only the officials and the volunteers for the count. One of them was keen to be in on the kill. She’d waited five years, she said with a broad smile. For what? To be heard, she said.
By now the result was available, despite the embargo on any announcement before voting has ended: AFP broke it eight minutes before time, but news of Hollande’s victory was already up on websites in Belgium. Four minutes later Libération posted a 52-48 victory. In the school the count moved forward at a brisk pace, with four volunteers to a table, one caller at each. François Hollande, François Hollande, François Hollande, like an echo chamber. The first of the little offices to return a result, around nine, had 749 votes for Hollande and 132 for Sarkozy. By 11.30 in Bordeaux, it was 57 per cent to 43.
A drunk at the tram station claimed he’d been peering through the windows into a reception room at the Town Hall – the mayor of Bordeaux is Alain Juppé, Sarkozy’s foreign minister – and seen a tremendous spread of sandwiches hastily removed from the tables around 7 p.m. That was when he’d begun to celebrate in earnest. He didn’t wait for a tram but headed off in the direction of the river bellowing: ‘We’ve won.’
At the Place de la Victoire there was a fair crowd. A translator who worked at the UN thought Hollande might be the beginning of something. Her companion, a retired literature professor, said it might change the terms of the discussion. Neither gave Hollande much room for manoeuvre, but they were cautiously optimistic. The economists they knew or read didn’t think Hollande could win the argument in Europe over growth. But most of them were liberal, economists had been that way for three generations: how else would they see it?
A large man, possibly an ecologist, was drifting about in a furry mammal costume, as a bear or a Womble, it wasn’t clear: he kept being obscured behind two large black and red flags brandished by members of the anarchist union, the CNT, who were circling in jubilation, as though Hollande had really saved the day. Wasn’t this what Sarkozy and his dour campaigners had warned against? One moment there’s a government and the next there’s a woolly environmentalist bobbing in and out of a bunch of anarcho-syndicalists. In the rest of France the party had been going strong. In Paris there were tens of thousands at the Place de la Bastille.
Monday: a handful of revellers are around at daybreak, the worse for wear but making the most of it. The overall result is much as Libération predicted. A communiqué has gone out from Angela Merkel’s offices to congratulate Hollande: he’s been invited to Berlin. Overnight the markets in Asia have been pouting and the euro has dipped (the Greek elections are not going down well either). On his campaign website a maudlin farewell note has appeared from Sarkozy: ‘Let’s be dignified. Let’s be patriots. Let’s be French. I love you.’