French President Francois Hollande is now officially infamous. In a magazine poll published last Thursday, Hollande was voted least popular French President since 1981. The survey of 1,000 people, conducted in late February, reiterates the notion that socialist voters who had pushed for Hollande’s presidency in May 2012 are now twisting and turning at his government’s handling of an economy teetering on the brink of recession.
Hollande’s rating had been gradually falling for a while. In February’s monthly poll Hollande’s rating fell by 5 points to 30% when respondents were asked whether they had confidence in their President’s ability to resolve the country’s problems. His rating dropped by a further 8 points following the increase in the French unemployment rate, which has risen since Hollande took office — despite his promises to create 100,000 new jobs each year. “Until now, the Elysee (presidential) palace could congratulate itself by saying that those who voted for the President remained loyal. That’s now over”, the survey stated.
Further, the European Commission forecast last week that the French economy will expand 0.1 % this year, far short of the government’s 0.8 % goal. The Commission also said it expected France’s unemployment to rise to 10.7 %. This would not go against the trend. Joblessness is at a 16-year high in France, despite Hollande’s claim on February 28 that “We have progressed”; data released on February 26 further showed that unemployment figures had increased to 3.17 million in January, their highest level since July 1997.
Commenting on the figures, Ben Jones, a Politics student at Homerton College, Cambridge, said that expectations of Hollande had been set too high. “The presence of a Socialist President generated a lot of fervour”, he said, “but people seemed to forget what happened to the previous Socialist president , who tried to implement a socialist agenda. nternational markets sold off francs at an alarming rate in response, and in turn he had to reverse and for the rest of his presidency followed a similar line to that of Thatcher and Reagan.
“Hollande too”, he continued, “given the precariousness of the economic situation in Europe, must take into account international financiers.” The so-far successful war in Mali has not provided any political lift to Hollande, then, indicating the worth of the trans-Atlantic suggestion: “It’s the economy, stupid”. The fact that the French economy is suffering under Hollande’s presidency, close to being defined as the period when French unemployment soared, explains the President’s popularity, or lack thereof.
Sky Holmes – International Reporter