Hollande’s path to the presidency was long overshadowed by more charismatic figures.
First Segolene Royal, the mother of his children, ran for the Socialists in the 2007 presidential race because she seemed more electable than party leader Hollande.
Then Dominique Strauss-Kahn was long considered the front-runner for the 2012 presidential race, until a New York sex scandal torpedoed his career — leaving Hollande as the Socialists’ next-best hope.
Hollande won the 2012 election, but some voters chose him simply because he wasn’t Nicolas Sarkozy, the outgoing conservative president whose flashy style and angry rhetoric alienated many.
In deciding to step aside after a troubled four and a half years, Hollande earned praise from voters and rivals alike for his integrity.
“I think this was perhaps the best thing to do to … try to bring the left together,” Paris commuter Vincent Forbin said Friday.
Far right leader Marine Le Pen, hoping to ride Europe’s populist wave to the French presidency, said it was “an act of lucidity on the part of Mr. Hollande, considering the results of his presidential term and the disenchantment and the total absence of confidence from the French people.”
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a potential Socialist presidential contender, praised Hollande’s “tough, mature, serious choice” and insisted it was too early to rule on his boss’ legacy.
“History will, of course, put back into perspective the action carried on over the past five years. We must defend his record,” Valls said.
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