Friday, 15 March 2013

FRANCE: François Hollande: Mr '' Unpopular''

Never before has a French president fallen in public sentiment as quickly as François Hollande. Only 10 months after entering into office, his popularity rating is plummeting.

Since taking office 10 months ago, Hollande has experienced the fastest drop in popularity ever seen in French presidential politics. In June of last year, those who said they had confidence in him numbered between 51 and 63 percent, depending on the polling institute. That number is now 30 to 37 percent, nearing the lowest approval rating of any French president on record: Nicolas Sarkozy in May 2011, at 20 percent.

Hollande's rating in public opinion polls in 2012 seemed locked in a death spiral. For many French, it seemed that the president's nickname, "Flanby" -- a custard desert popular with children -- was all too apt. While his approval ratings have improved since he ordered French planes and soldiers to Mali, they are not inspiring. Slightly less than half of the respondents in a recent poll think Hollande capable of making the right decisions for France, while scarcely one in three believe he can unite the nation.

After Hollande became the Socialists' candidate for president -- in the party's first-ever direct primary election -- he relished the public strolls that brought him closer to his supporters. They were scheduled at every campaign event, and Hollande was happy to take the time for them. So many elderly women wanted kisses on the cheek from him that, shortly after his election, he jokingly called himself le président des bisous, or "the president of kisses." But 10 months later, Hollande's trips across France become shockingly PR disaster.

Something has changed among the people, evidenced by opinion polls.

Hollande's biggest problem is that he's not just unpopular in one political demographic, but in many. That's true as much among parts of the Socialist Party base, which has already labeled light reforms and minimal budget cuts as betrayal, as it is among many centrists, who had expected more pragmatism from him. That's not to mention the right, which is just as incensed by Hollande's economic policies as it is by his decision to legalize same sex-marriage.

Hollande is also struggling  to find convicing counterarguments as unemployment has risen to 11 percent, economic data looks more dismal by the week, industrial output is taking a nosedive and a recovery is nowhere to be seen. As long as the economy doesn't improve, nothing will be able to boost Hollande's popularity.

According to a recent survey by France's BVA opinion and polling centre, 68 percent of French voters are disappointed with Hollande's perfomance, while 51 percent also said they felt Sarkozy would have done a better job had he won re-election.

There have been rumblings that Sarkozy may attempt to stage a comeback for weeks, with former foreign minister Alain Juppé telling France's Parliamentary Channel LCP that he has a ''feeling'' his old boss plans on running for president again in 2017.

Few pundits in France are wholeheartedly defending Hollande. Even in the left-wing media, which had previously been inclined to grant him favorable coverage, commentators are now accusing him of having no vision, doing too little, speaking publicly too seldom and leaving his government muddling through.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: Wikipédia: French President: F.Hollande