One year on: François Hollande

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By Nathalie Jacquemard

It is the story of a popularity in free fall. For the first anniversary of François Hollande’s presidency, numerous are the criticisms.The Cahuzac scandal. A stagnating economy. Unemployment levels going through the roof……..many reasons to be angry. Are we already to conclude that François Hollande underestimated the difficulty of the presidential post? According to Marie-Eve Malouines,head of the political department of France Info, it is more a case of Hollande having taken a clumsy approach to it.

“A normal president, that was a good tactic in a campaign opposite Nicolas Sarkozy but once he arrived at the Élysée, it was clear that it didn’t work. People want a president who knows about his prerogatives, who exhibits his authority. François Hollande just appeared weak and without authority.”

Calm, almost to a fault……that is François Hollande’style. But it’s not ideal in a time of crisis, when people want to know where they are going and want to know that somebody is safely holding the reins and in control.

François Hollande is not a very good communicator. He probably knows where he’s going but he doesn’t necessarily know how to explain it. It seems that the Hollande camp has cottoned on to the communication problem as the “60 promises of the presidential campaign” have just been published on the Matignon web site. The aim seems to try to show people that most of those promises have already been fulfilled.

The problem is that any measures decided on take time to be implied, and in a time of crisis such as France is facing now, people want results right away. If François Hollande had that elusive charisma, he would be able to “talk” his way into making people accept that things do take time.

Are the French so deeply and rapidly disappointed in Hollande because they expected too much of him? It is very possible. He was seen as a kind of saviour during the presidential campaign. A man who would finally end the reign of the “king” Sarkozy. Sarkozy was so hated by the end of his mandate that the presidential elections became a “let’s get rid of Sarkozy” vote rather than “let’s elect a president” vote. The euphoria that followed was always going to be short-lived, once reality hit again. It is a heavy burden for Hollande to carry. Once Sarkozy was gone, some of the French voters woke up with a hangover and wondered who that man they had chosen actually was.

The Cahuzac scandal has made things worse. Hollande’s selling point during the presidential campaign was the fact that he wanted to “do politics in a different way (to Sarkozy), without the bling, without the focus on money”……and the Cahuzac scandal is pure bling. So it is obviously a hard knock for the president. Several proposed bills are stuck, the 75% tax on high salaries is at a dead end. The opposition says that Hollande is useless, that his plan to reorientate Europe has been an unquestionable failure.

There ARE a few victories to counteract those failures: Mali, same-sex marriage…..but this one has divided opinion. For François Hollande, same-sex marriage is a  great reform but he thinks only time can show that……….and that he will be given full credit and praise for it in the future.

He needs time. That’s unlucky for a president whose slogan during the presidential campaign was : “Change, it’s now”

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