PARIS — At first, the French viewed the U.S. presidential election with delight: It was a quintessentially American sitcom, reality television let loose into the realm of reality. But then delight became shock, and shock became horror.

In recent months, François , France’s president, has been particularly outspoken in his criticism of Republican contender Donald Trump. After Trump repeatedly criticized the family of Humayun Khan, a Muslim American soldier who died in combat in Iraq in 2004, Hollande wasted no time in calling out the candidate: “His excesses make you want to retch,” Hollande said.

But now Hollande has indirectly urged Americans to vote against Trump.

On Tuesday, as polls opened on the East Coast, he weighed in on the question of American politics yet again, albeit in a more tempered manner. “I have confidence in the American people to know which is the choice that best reflects their values, their principles, to freedom, to this relationship with France and Europe,” he said, during a visit to the port city of La Rochelle.

The statement was immediately seen as implicit endorsement of Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state who did not, as Trump did, arrive in Scotland hours after the “Brexit” referendum and congratulate voters for “taking their country back” from the European Union.

In La Rochelle, Hollande added that the relationship between the United States and France — the two “sister republics” immortalized by the Statue of Liberty — was sacrosanct, bound in “a relationship forged by history, by the same commitment to the enlightenment, for freedoms, for the values that we have and share.”

The rise of Trump has presented the deeply unpopular Hollande, a socialist, with a taste of what might lie in store in France’s own presidential election next spring. France, after all, is no stranger to a populist right that relies on the anxieties of a struggling, typically white working class, a group increasingly wary of globalization and the foreign citizens it has elevated. That demographic is the bread and butter of France’s National Front, a party formerly banished to the political fringe that has moved closer and closer to the mainstream.

Marine Le Pen, the National Front’s fiery but savvy leader, is an unabashed Trump supporter just like other prominent European populists — Britain’s Nigel Farage and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, both of whom attended the Republican National Convention. “If I were American,” Le Pen has said, “I would vote for Donald Trump.”

So when Hollande (subtly) speaks out in favor of Clinton, he isn’t necessarily endorsing her particular platform. What he's doing is taking a stand on an issue that is both global and local: populism.

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