Former French President François Hollande, 66, who commanded the country between 2012 and 2017, sees the damage caused by the growing populism in different parts of the world as palpable.
“The election of Jair Bolsonaro has led to a major destruction of the Amazon rainforest, a decline in democracy and freedoms and policies that are very harsh towards the poorest and very complacent towards the richest”, explains the socialist. “Not to mention the management of the health crisis which, both in Brazil and in the United States – when Donald Trump was in power – caused too many victims for lack of restrictive measures.”
In an email interview with Folha, Hollande defends a blocking reaction, as he claims to have arrived at Democrat Joe Biden’s candidacy for victory over Trump. “It was close, and it was only possible because the group of Democrats, in addition to their differences, joined forces.”
After the conviction of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, you criticized what you called “repeated attacks on justice”. Why did you find it necessary to defend French justice at that time? The separation of powers is the foundation of democracy. In France, the judiciary is independent from the executive. Magistrates, judges and prosecutors carry out their investigations and pronounce their sentences without any intervention of the political power. Decisions can be contested by any means of appeal, which Nicolas Sarkozy has already done after the conviction. That is why I did not accept attacks from the right and supporters of the former president who seek to discredit the judiciary.
In Brazil, justice is also criticized because of the lawsuit against former president Lula. Is it necessary to defend justice also in Brazil? Brazilian justice will establish the truth for itself and will one day be able to verify whether the accusations against former President Lula were founded. But it already seems clear that everything has been done at the political level to prevent Lula from running in the last presidential election. This is what justified my position with other heads of state and government since 2018, so that Lula could be a candidate for the presidential election, for free. Today is a new moment that opens, and I am happy to see Lula fully regain his place in Brazilian political life.
In the United States, the election of Joe Biden stopped Donald Trump’s populist wave. But far-right and far-right populist movements are equally spread across Europe and Brazil. What is the role of the left at the moment? We can already easily see the damage caused by the populists. The election of Jair Bolsonaro has resulted in major destruction of the Amazon rainforest, a decline in democracy and freedoms and policies that are very harsh towards the poorest and very accommodating towards the richest. Not to mention the management of the health crisis which, both in Brazil and in the United States – when Donald Trump was in power – claimed too many victims for lack of restrictive measures.
The left in the United States – for that is how you look at American Democrats – was able to unite around Joe Biden, whose past and experience have witnessed his commitment and instilled confidence. . This is how Trump could be defeated. It was close, and it was only possible because the group of Democrats, in addition to their differences, joined forces. The role of the left is therefore to do everything to prevent the populists from gaining power and, when they do, to remove them democratically by offering a credible solution to the people.
In France, the Socialist Party is planning a “refoundation” congress to define a new cycle and rename the party. What is this refoundation movement about? In a rapidly changing world facing enormous challenges such as inequality, democracy and global warming, each generation must shoulder its responsibilities. Progressive parties must renew themselves, recast and rethink, both from the point of view of their organization and their project. But without ever forgetting its history and without losing the values on which it was founded. Such is the present task of the French socialists.
Did you discuss the renewal of the left with former president Lula? Yes, we have agreed to exchange experiences, to defend the same positions at the international level and to build, in our respective countries, political forces capable of embodying alternation. We will work with all who wish to join us in restoring hope to politics. We share the values of freedom, democracy and social justice.
France still mourns the recent terrorist attacks, including the beheading of Professor Samuel Paty, and MPs have adopted a bill against separatism, which will be examined by the Senate. Are discussions of so-called “left Islamism” eclipsing the real problem? France loves controversies. Some can be successful, others hide real problems. Let’s be clear, there are phenomena of radicalization, division and even separatism. And there are even theories that justify them. They must be discussed and fought. But we will not believe that they are in the majority on the left, quite the contrary. It is a very small fraction that maintains these movements to live in protest, in exclusion and in the rejection of their responsibilities. I am a socialist and therefore a universalist and I am not satisfied with partial combats. Everything must converge towards a global change of society. As for terrorism, it tries to frighten us and divide us, we cannot give in to it.
Do you agree with the administration of President Emmanuel Macron during the pandemic? Managing the pandemic is one of the most difficult crises that can be conceived, as the virus is resistant, vaccination takes time to take effect and part of the population remains vulnerable. Government management has at times seemed hesitant or contradictory, but it has been so in all countries. At least I recognize the merit of Emmanuel Macron, as opposed to Jair Bolsonaro, for admitting that the virus was dangerous, that it could kill and that restrictive measures, including containment, had to be taken.
Do you regret not having organized the last presidential elections? I should have taken more time to announce my choice, maybe a little later it would have been different. I regret that I was no longer able to pursue the policy of reducing inequalities, by favoring the education and inclusion of young people, as well as the fight for a social ecology.
Do you think you have a role in the 2022 election? What? I am no longer a leader of the Socialist Party. I am proud of what I have done for my country, even if I recognize certain flaws, but my role is to contribute to the debate of ideas, to make proposals, to express my convictions when the essential points are in question. and pass on my experience to new generations.
François Hollande, 66 years old
A graduate of the École des Hautes Études Commerciales in Paris and the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), he joined the Socialist Party in 1979. He is a deputy for the Corrèze department and mayor of the capital, Tulle . He was the seventh president of the Fifth French Republic.