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To Pakistan, Shakil Afridi is a traitor who helped a foreign power locate and kill an enemy on its territory. To the US, Dr. Afridi is a hero who will now, apparently, spend the next 33 years of his life in prison.
The US lobbied hard with the Pakistani government to gain Afridi’s release. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, during a February 2012 visit to Islamabad, urged Pakistani authorities to release Afridi, but Pakistan declined. Given the substantial public anger in Pakistan over the bin Laden killing – more about the US’s violation of Pakistani sovereignty than for sympathy for the man – Pakistan sealed Afridi’s fate.
Now his sentencing marks another low-water mark for the US-Pakistani relationship, and highlights how little common ground the two countries share. But expectations for each side are now so low that it’s unlikely the US is going to adopt another full-court press as seen when another US spy – Raymond Davis – faced detention in Pakistan.
To be sure, Afridi’s Pakistani nationality also means the US isn’t going to view his detention in quite the same leave-no-man-behind terms. And the US does not have the same legal arguments of the Geneva Conventions as it did in the case of Mr. Davis.
But there’s also much less riding on the US-Pakistan relationship than even a year ago when the Davis affair erupted. NATO has managed to keep the Afghan war effort going, despite Pakistan cutting off supply lines through its territory. Then, too, trust has evaporated since the discovery of bin Laden in Pakistan and the unauthorized US raid to kill him.
Roller coaster ride
America has had a roller coaster relationship with Pakistan for years. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the US and Pakistan were as thick as thieves, funding, arming, and training Afghan and Pakistani fighters to take on the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. After the Soviets withdrew, and after Pakistan successfully tested a nuclear device, the US imposed strict military sanctions against Pakistan, and left that country with tens of thousands of former militants, thousands of politically charged Islamic seminaries, and a Pakistani economy addicted to foreign aid.
Today, the US and Pakistan have spent a decade ostensibly fighting on the same side against Islamist extremist groups – some of whom use Pakistan’s less-well-controlled corners, such as Swat and Northern Waziristan, as their bases – and yet it is not clear how much these two countries share in common anymore.
That the US military ended up recruiting Afridi, a Pakistani doctor, to masquerade as a Save the Children doctor on a child-immunization campaign to help locate bin Laden, rather than trust the intelligence it was receiving from Pakistan’s own Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) speaks volumes about how far the US-Pakistani relationship had fallen.
Pakistan consistently insisted that it had no idea where bin Laden was. US intelligence agents, cell phone intercepts, and Afridi succeeded where the ISI failed, all contributed to finding bin Laden in a large home just half a mile away from a major Pakistani military academy in the town of Abbottabad.
Far from feeling apologetic, Pakistan’s military establishment cried foul, and accused the US’s acknowledged agent of treason.
Eye to eye
There is no surprise, though, that these two nations don’t see eye to eye.
America has a much broader strategic partner in South Asia in India, with whom it shares a number of parallel goals of keeping the growing economic and political power of China somewhat contained, of promoting the expansion of democracy and free markets, and of fighting against militant extremist groups. The fact that Pakistan continues to see India as its chief existential threat, with whom it continues to spar over disputed territories in Kashmir, adds to Pakistan’s sense of betrayal by the US.
But Pakistan also feels anger that the US fails to look at matters from its perspective.
The US once understood Pakistan’s challenge of holding an unwieldy collection of language groups and religious groups together as a nation, Pakistani academics say. The US once understood Islamabad’s difficulty of maintaining even the most basic sort of control over the semi-autonomous regions along the Afghan border called the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. But after 9/11, the US has insisted that Pakistan launch military incursions into those FATA areas in pursuit of well-armed militant groups, and in recent years, has launched numerous drone attacks against these groups, without prior notification to Pakistan.
These drone attacks have created a tremendous blowback effect, even among liberal Pakistanis who once supported the war against radical Islamist militant groups. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, liberal and moderate Pakistanis welcomed efforts to contain terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Sipah-e-Sahaba. But after the US invaded Iraq, that support waned, and many Pakistanis adopted a Michael Moore view of the US as a superpower bent on crushing weaker Muslim states.
Today, it's hard to see how the relationship can be repaired. In the end, the US can console itself that if Afridi had been tried under Pakistani national law – not a tribal court – he could have faced the death penalty.
“That’s a very good result for us,” said a spokesman of Germany’s Federal Finance Agency in Frankfurt, which manages the sales. “It is an impressive illustration of investors’ search for quality.”
But the first time in history the German central bank sold two-year notes to yield zero percent is evidence of how much trouble the rest of Europe is in. The free money for Germany amount to a loss for investors after inflation. Why are bankers willing to lose money on a loan to Germany? Because it isn't Greece. Or Italy. Or Spain.
Germany is not only one of the few growing European economies but its domestic finances are rock solid, unlike its eurozone peers. Spain and Italy are paying more than six percent to borrow, because investors fear they'll default. European bankers, worried about ending up holding worthless paper, have few good options but the Bundesbank.
Seven percent is perceived as the threshold beyond which borrowing becomes unsustainable – Greece, Portugal and Ireland all asked the European Union and International Monetary Fund for financial aid after their borrowing costs breached that threshold.
The zero-interest sale reflects investors' interest in "a return of their money over a return on their money," Rabobank rate strategist Richard McGuire told Reuters.
High interest rates are exacerbating the economic problems in southern Europe. Greece, now in its fifth year of recession, seems more and more likely to leave the eurozone. Even after negotiating a far-reaching debt reduction with private investors earlier this year, the country won’t be able to service the remaining debt. Reuters quoted two Eurogroup officials today confirming that member states are being asked to prepare individual contingency plans for the eventuality of a Greek exit.
While Germany made its record-breaking bond sale, EU leaders prepared for yet another crisis summit. Tonight they are convening for an informal meeting in Brussels to discuss measures to stimulate economic growth in the eurozone. The meeting is seen as the first battle between German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who strictly objects to growth programs financed through additional borrowing, and the new French president, Francois Hollande, unofficial spokesman for the growing group of leaders who advocate credit-based stimulus plans.
Before the meeting, Germany’s deputy finance minister, Thomas Steffen, rejected renewed calls for the introduction of eurobonds – debt securities issued by the eurozone as a whole which in effect would mean that Greece could borrow at the same rate as Germany.
“We would sign up for 100 percent liability for new debt in the euro area,” Steffen said in Berlin today. “We can’t do this, we’re not strong enough economically.”
At its weekend summit in Chicago, NATO announced that the first phase of its controversial European missile defense shield has become "provisionally operational," news that will not be received well in Moscow.
If there is any issue that threatens to derail the fragile East-West détente that's held since President Obama set out to reverse the mini-cold war that prevailed under George W. Bush, it's the increasingly acrimonious dispute over missile defense.
Earlier this month Russia's top general, Nikolai Makarov, went so far as to suggest that his forces might launch a preemptive strike against NATO missile defense emplacements in Central Europe if they were perceived to threaten Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent.
But NATO, which has made the issue a litmus test of alliance unity, has remained unmoved by Russian bombast on the subject and is clearly moving forward with the project, which is planned to reach full operational capability by 2020.
"This is the first step towards our long-term goal of providing full coverage and protection for all NATO European populations, territory, and forces. Our system will link together missile defense assets from different Allies – satellites, ships, radars, and interceptors – under NATO command and control," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the summit on Sunday. "It will allow us to defend against threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area," he added.
Buried deep inside NATO's Chicago Summit Declaration is the strongest political statement yet offered by the alliance in hopes of mollifying Russian worries: "NATO missile defense is not directed against Russia and will not undermine Russia’s strategic deterrence capabilities," it says. "While regretting recurrent Russian statements on possible measures directed against NATO’s missile defense system, we welcome Russia's willingness to continue dialogue with the purpose of finding an agreement on the future framework for missile defense cooperation."
While that statement may be perceived in Moscow as progress, it falls far short of the legally binding written pledge that the Kremlin has demanded.
"We've heard this before," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow-based foreign-policy journal. "The thing is, when the Americans say their missile defense plans are not directed against Russia, they're telling the truth. It's against everybody. Since Ronald Reagan first floated the idea, missile defense has been seen as a way to protect the US against any and every possible missile threat. But Russia is the main country whose national security is based on strategic nuclear deterrence, in a balance with US forces. It cannot help but concern us directly."
The dispute looks almost impossible to resolve, in part because both sides are talking at cross-purposes, and the threats each is concerned about remain theoretical future possibilities rather than immediate realities that might be negotiated over.
NATO claims it needs a shield to defend against hypothetical rogue missile strikes from Iran or North Korea – a threat that does not presently exist – while Moscow complains that the shield currently being installed in Europe might undercut Russia's strategic edge in its later stages, almost a decade hence.
"The paradox of this debate over missile defense is that it's completely disconnected from real issues on both sides," says Mr. Lukyanov. "The actual military issues they're both talking about are countering virtual threats, not real ones. But in political terms it's about the basis of trust, and it's causing trouble right now."
On the Russian side, the missile defense controversy helps gin up domestic support for newly inaugurated President Vladimir Putin's sweeping rearmament plans, which may be popular in Russia's conservative hinterland where nostalgia for USSR-era superpower status remains strong, but are not necessarily the wisest economic priority for Russia at this time.
"At this juncture of history, for the first time, Russia faces no significant threat whatsoever, from any direction. So there needs to be a threat of some sort to talk about," says Sergei Karaganov, head of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policies, a leading Moscow think tank.
But the fractious dialogue over missile defense has made a bad situation worse and, he adds, Western leaders are not addressing the legitimate concerns of Russian military leaders in a forthright manner.
"It's all explained as if it's a counter to this nonexistent Iranian threat," which may be addressed by other means in coming days and months, Mr. Karaganov says. "These are either lies, or they are cover for other goals. We are simply not talking openly or realistically about the missile defense issue, and this drags down the level of trust."
Pushing Russia toward China?
It could also be pushing Russia into what some observers are describing as a possible foreign-policy pivot toward China and the East under its newly returned Kremlin leader, Mr. Putin. Speculation on this theme has been spiking since Putin announced that he would skip last Friday's Group of Eight summit at Camp David and will instead make his first foreign visits to Belarus and China in the next couple of weeks.
Though it has been little remarked in coverage of the issue, Moscow and Beijing see eye to eye on missile defense, says Karaganov.
"We've been having constant conversations with our Chinese colleagues about this, and they have the same point of view as us," he says. "They haven't spoken up much about it, but they may start to do so."
Hours before the start of a major NATO summit in Chicago, the Taliban's main spokesman released a lengthy statement signaling the insurgency was open to a political solution to the conflict, but accused NATO of "wavering in their stance" on negotiations.
"The Islamic Emirate has left all military and political doors open," read the statement, written in English and attributed to spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. "[H]owever the invaders are utilizing a one step forward, two steps backwards tactic. They are conjuring artificial excuses to prolong the occupation of Afghanistan, are wavering in their stance and do not seem to have a clear strategy for a political solution."
Until NATO stops wavering, the statement continues, the Taliban considers the coalition's calls for talks to be "meaningless."
It was the Taliban who suspended negotiations in March following the burning of the Quran on a US base and a shooting spree by a US soldier. But the United States and NATO have continued to talk of seeking a negotiated settlement to the 11-year conflict.
Most recently, President Obama backed negotiating on a visit earlier this month to Afghanistan. However, he also outlined a new strategic pact with the US-backed government in Kabul that would let some American soldiers stay in Afghanistan past 2014 until 2024.
Obama's two-pronged message of peace talks but prolonged troop presence unsettled what appeared to be a Taliban strategy of running out the clock on the US withdrawal target of 2014. The Taliban's statement today suggests the insurgency is irked by the move to "prolong the occupation."
Whether Mr. Obama's gambit pushes the Taliban to publicly return to negotiations remains to be seen. While today's statement signaled openness again to negotiations, it also expressed doubts about NATO's sincerity in wanting to leave.
"The foreigners should forgo prolonging and complicating the Afghan issue for their colonialist objectives," the statement reads.
It goes on to remind NATO that, despite the 2024 extension, there are domestic pressures to wrap up the war soon. The statement cites a recent CBS News/New York Times poll in which 69 percent of respondents said the US shouldn't be involved in Afghanistan. Indeed, Monitor polling on the new US-Afghanistan strategic pact found nearly two-thirds of Americans reject the broad outlines of the deal.
The Taliban statement also reiterated the group's stance that they were not involved in the 9/11 attacks and will not allow Afghan soil to be used to launch attacks on other countries.
"The Islamic Emirate once again declares that it holds no agenda of harming anyone nor will it let anyone harm other countries from the soil of Afghanistan hence there is no reason for the occupying countries including America to continue the occupation of Afghanistan under the pretext of safeguarding its own security," the statement reads.
The official Chinese media really have it in for US Ambassador Gary Locke. But now their angry attacks against him are backfiring.
Ever since he arrived here last August, Mr. Locke’s image as a “regular guy” has won widespread admiration from Chinese bloggers and, it seems, irked the authorities.
The way he tried to get a discount at Starbucks with a coupon en route to Beijing, and carried his own backpack, is the polar opposite of the way aloof and pampered Chinese officials behave. So when Chinese citizens praise him, by implication they are criticizing their own leaders.
But readers’ reactions to the editorial were so negative that within hours “Beijing Daily” was a banned search word on the Chinese Internet, effectively closing down social media debate on the article.
That setback does not appear to have chastened Beijing Daily, however, and today the paper put its foot in it again.
Editors used the daily’s account on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, to post a snide request, responding to another post about Locke’s wealth.
“Will Gary Locke please disclose his personal assets?” it asked.
The question was, perhaps, conceived as a sideways commentary on the lively debate currently underway in China about the need for top officials here – often accused of corruption – to disclose their wealth.
But of course, the editors simply revealed their ignorance. As scornful readers quickly informed them, Locke HAS disclosed his personal assets, just like every other member of the US government. (According to his 2010 declaration, he is worth between $1,356,025 and $7,615,999, which makes him the sixth richest person in the executive branch.)
“Of course Gary Locke’s personal assets have been disclosed,” read one comment on the Beijing Daily post. “And what about the assets of those imperial officials [of ours]?
Within hours, Beijing Daily’s original post and all comments on it had been deleted from Sina Weibo, according to David Bandurski of Hong Kong University’s China Media Project, who tracked the incident in real time.
Two propaganda flops in less than two weeks: Beijing Daily is losing its touch.
Nikolai Popov was back country skiing, alone, this past Friday on Decker Mountain, about five miles from Whistler, British Columbia.
He knew the risks, and knew enough to watch for crevasses.
"I saw that there was a little crack and started probing with a pole to see where the crevasse is," Popov told CTV News. "Just as I was doing that, the whole thing collapsed under me and I found myself in a very nasty hole, it was quite deep."
In fact, it was about 50 meters (164 feet) deep.
Popov wasn't hurt in the fall. But he sat there in the deep crevasse waiting for two hours before rescuers arrived. It might have been longer if another skier hadn't noticed that Popov was suddenly no longer behind him.
Neither Popov nor the other skier had a cell phone. The good Samaritan skied to where he could alert a search and rescue team. A helicopter brought in a rescue team and Popov was pulled out of the crevasse.
Popov's incident is a cautionary tale: Don't ski alone and bring a rope in this kind of terrain, under these conditions.
"I wouldn't recommend touring alone," said Daren Romano with Whistler Search and Rescue. "Be prepared for self-rescue if you're going with a party. Take some ropes with you."
Perhaps not, but it’s certainly a powerful wakeup call to a government and populace busier worrying about the euro crisis and unemployment statistics.
So says Antonio Manfredi, the director of the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), which is located in a small town near Naples, Italy. A little less than a month ago, Mr. Manfredi started to burn the gallery’s collection piece by piece, saying that he didn't have the funds for upkeep. “Our artworks will end up being destroyed anyway, since institutions are not sustaining us,” he told Italian daily Corriere della Sera before starting the protest.
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The first to go was “Promenade,” a canvas by French artist Severine Bourguignon, who approved of the protest and followed it on Skype. “I hope that this action will help the Italian government reconsider CAM's situation,” she wrote in The Guardian. “Without funds, CAM will be closed and its collection will effectively cease to exist.”
Bourguignon’s piece was followed by many others, as meticulously recorded on CAM’s Facebook page.
Some contended that the protest is only the provocative performance of an attention-seeking artist – Manfredi is himself a painter, sculptor, and photographer – and that because CAM is not technically a public museum, the government doesn't have to support it (although most private museums also receive some funding from the Ministry of Culture).
But there is no doubt that Italy’s culture sector has been hit hard by cuts because of the economic crisis. The Italian daily Republica reported that between 2010 and 2011 the Ministry of Culture’s funding saw a 14.5 percent decrease, dropping from 1.7 million ($2.2 million) to 1.5 million euros.
Despite its world-class cultural wealth, Italy invests in the culture sector less than other countries. According to a government report, in 2010 the Ministry of Culture received only 0.21 percent of the country’s budget (compared, for instance, to 1 percent in France). It’s no surprise then that several prestigious institutions are going through a rough time.
MAXXI, Rome’s contemporary museum, which opened only two years ago, has predicted losses of 11 million euros for 2012 through 2014. Naples’s and Parlermo’s contemporary art museums are also in deep financial trouble.
In the meantime, some organizations representing workers in the culture sector are protesting against low wages and the lack of adequate benefits. In a letter recently published in Corriere della Sera, they stressed the importance of what they do, which they say goes well beyond the workplace. “We produce intangible but necessary goods on a daily basis: intelligence, relations, social welfare,” they wrote.
Investing in culture is also the recipe called for by renowned writer Dacia Maraini, who in a recent trip to the United States was surprised by the interest Americans still have in Italian culture and history. “Shouldn’t we focus obstinately on what we can do best instead of competing with China in producing cheap jeans?” Maraini recently wrote in Corriere della Sera.
In what is likely to be a terrible blow for Russia's struggling aviation industry, a Sukhoi SuperJet-100, the first completely new post-Soviet jetliner, went missing during a promotional tour in Indonesia.
The plane is presumed crashed, although Russia's official RIA-Novosti agency said that darkness and fog have prevented search teams from reaching the site where the plane is believed to have gone down during a demonstration flight near Mt. Salak, about 50 miles from Jakarta.
The SuperJet, a half-dozen copies of which are already serving with two Russian airlines, is supposed to replace the fleets of aging Soviet-era Tupolev, Antonov, and Yakovlev mid-range aircraft that serve hundreds of far-flung regional routes across Russia and which have suffered a rash of catastrophic accidents in recent years. The situation became so bad last year that then-President Dmitry Medvedev ordered two regional workhorses, the Tupolev Tu-134 and the Antonov An-24, to be permanently grounded.
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Great hopes have been invested in the SuperJet, which was developed by Russia's famous producer of fighter planes, Sukhoi, with input from several top Western aviation firms, including Boeing, Snecma, and Honeywell. The plane meets all the latest global aviation standards, and production models should be able to carry almost 100 passengers with an operating range of up to 2,500 miles, which makes it an ideal replacement for a wide range of troubled Soviet aircraft on Russia's multitude of outback routes.
There are also high hopes that the plane might do well on international markets, particularly in Asia, where its $35 million price tag makes it a tough competitor for similar-sized jets produced by the Canadian Bombardier Inc. and the Brazilian Embraer SA.
The SuperJet, which has sailed through testing and certification, has also been relatively accident-free in its development stages. The only serious mishap so far occurred in March, when a SuperJet operated by Aeroflot was forced to abandon a flight from Moscow to the Caspian city of Astrakhan due to problems with its undercarriage. Airline officials said passengers were never in danger.
But Russia's airline industry has been hit with a series of scandals, including revelations that many engineers working in aircraft factories have inadequate or fake diplomas.
Many Russians can recall, often with a shudder, how a catastrophic crash of the Soviet Union's "Concordski" Tu-144 supersonic jetliner at the Paris air show in 1973 destroyed the USSR's reputation as a worthy competitor of the West in aviation. All eyes will be on the investigation into today's SuperJet disappearance, and everyone will be hoping it does not reveal fundamental flaws in the plane's design.
Some reports said there were 44 people on board, others 50, including its eight-member Russian crew. Many of the passengers were aviation journalists and representatives of Asian airline companies that have been considering purchases of the new aircraft. The plane had previously visited Myanmar, Pakistan, and Kazakhstan. After Jakarta it was supposed to go to Laos and Vietnam.
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In a stinging humiliation that underscores Ukraine's increasing isolation, President Viktor Yanukovych today bowed to a boycott by a dozen European leaders angry over treatment of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, indefinitely postponing a prestigious summit meeting it was to have hosted this week in the Crimean resort of Yalta.
"Due to the fact that a number of European heads of states are unable to attend the summit of presidents of the Central European Countries in Yalta, Ukraine found it reasonable to postpone it until a later date," Alexander Dykusarov, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a terse statement.
The event was meant to showcase Ukraine's growing integration into the European community, and to set the stage for Ukraine's co-hosting, along with Poland, of the Euro 2012 soccer championships – a huge event in the life of all Europeans – next month.
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Instead, the growing impression is that Ukraine is falling out of the European orbit and drifting back into Moscow's embrace.
Leaders of Germany, Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, and others have refused to attend the annual regional meeting in an escalating row over the alleged mistreatment of Ms. Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to seven years in prison last October for "abuse of office" while she was prime minister. She also faces a fresh trial on charges of alleged tax evasion, which is scheduled to open in a Kharkov court later this month.
Tymoshenko, who says all the charges are politically motivated, is currently on a hunger strike and alleges that she has been beaten in prison. She also says she is suffering from severe chronic back pain brought on by her ordeal, and has criticized her treatment by state doctors in a Kharkov clinic. Her family wants her to go to Germany for treatment, but she refuses to leave Ukraine. In any case, there seems little chance the Yanukovych government would let her leave.
She was scheduled to be seen by German doctors at a Kharkov clinic today.
"She has not abandoned her hunger strike and she will not abandon it until the question of her situation has been resolved," Tymoshenko's lawyer, Olexandr Plakhotnyuk, told journalists today. "She is drinking only water. What will take place next will be decided after she meets doctors today."
Tymoshenko was narrowly defeated in presidential elections by Yanukovych two years ago, and was rapidly removed from all her official positions shortly afterward.
She remains Ukraine's top opposition leader, and her prosecutions by the Yanukovych government are widely suspected of being a means of removing her from the political stage in advance of parliamentary elections slated for later this year. Ukraine's next presidential polls will be held in 2015.
Calls are now mounting for a boycott of Ukrainian venues for the Euro 2012 soccer matches which, if it happens, will strike hard at Yanukovych's personal prestige and the sensitivities of all Ukrainians.
The foreign ministry in Kiev warned last week that any targeting of the soccer championship to punish Yanukovych would "damage the interests of millions of ordinary Ukrainians that vote for various political parties or who are not interested in politics at all."
Ukraine has at least one reliable friend in freshly inaugurated Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has dismissed any suggestion that Moscow might join such a boycott, saying "you can't mix politics, business, and other issues with sport."
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For the next five years, France’s president-elect François Hollande of the Socialist Party will go by “Monsieur le Président.” But in this central France town of about 16,000, where he has been in politics for about 30 years, he will always be known as “François.” Residents here know him by his first name – and he knows theirs.
Mr. Hollande toured polling stations in Tulle and other nearby villages on election day. As was his habit when he was a local elected leader here, Hollande visited Tulle’s two markets on May 5, the day before the election, asking shoppers and local food producers how they were doing, shaking men’s hands, and kissing ladies on the cheeks amid a crowd of reporters.
The atmosphere was lighthearted and optimistic, with Hollande ahead of Nicolas Sarkozy in the polls, but some residents worried that it might well be the last time they saw "François" at the markets. As president, he would have very little time, if any, to come visit them.
IN PICTURES: France's new president, François Hollande
Although not from the area originally, Hollande has been a political fixture there for decades. He served as a representative in the lower chamber of parliament for Corrèze, the rural area where Tulle sits, from 1988 to 1993 and again from 1997 until now. He was president of Corrèze’s general council – a position equivalent to county manager – from 2008 until now and served as mayor of Tulle from 2001 to 2008.
While Hollande walked the open-air market by the town’s cathedral on the unexpectedly sunny day, one petite and elegant older lady waited for him near the market entrance. Wearing a red dress and a white wool cardigan with gold buttons, the older lady had been standing there for over an hour, repeatedly asking reporters whether they knew what time “François” would come.
When Hollande finally got close to her after posing for photographs with supporters, she tried to catch his attention as he spoke to someone else. “Will you invite me to the Elysée?” she called out, referring to France’s presidential palace. Hollande didn’t hear her over the cheering supporters and journalists shouting questions.
Walking along the market stands soon after, Hollande told reporters that just because he was likely to become president didn’t mean he would forget those who live here, and that even if he was less available, Tulle residents should be reassured that one of their own would be leading the country.
“Tulle residents won’t miss me,” Hollande said. “If I lose, they will see me and if I win they will see me even more.”
On election night, about an hour after the announcement of his win, Hollande gave his first presidential address here, right by the cathedral, only a few feet away from the open-air market. Just before he concluded his speech, he thanked his first constituents.
“Finally, I greet my department of Corrèze,” he said, to which the crowd responded with nearly 30 seconds of chants and applause. “I owe you everything.”
Hollande was elected president with 51.63 percent of the votes nationally, according to results published by France’s Interior Ministry. He scored 65 percent of the vote in Corrèze and 76 percent in Tulle.