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 4 years gone, Hollande's trips across France become shockingly PR disaster.
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.
Now in power, little of the government’s legislation – apart from the tax rises – seems to have had any effect apart from irritating people, whether it is in education, housing, pension reform, health, the civil service or justice. No bold decisions have been taken on anything, so fearful are the Socialists of upsetting their disintegrating electoral base, and none of the structural reforms that other European countries are putting through have been replicated. Even the gay marriage bill brought the country to the verge of civil strife. In the UK, the same bill took an afternoon to pass.
Hollande's decision ( not to run for the second term in office) leaves the way open for a bitter Socialist primary race in January to decide who will run in his place. Manuel Valls, the ambitious prime minister who is tough law and order voice and pro-business reformist on the right of the party, could now decide to run to become the Socialist candidate.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert