President Hollande: the grim verdict after two years

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May 6th, 2014 marks the second anniversary of François Hollande's election as president of the French Republic. Any celebrations, however, are likely to be muted. Six weeks after disastrous local election results that led to a government reshuffle, and just three weeks before European elections where his Socialist Party looks set to come third, the president is at a record low in opinion polls. Hated by the Right and mistrusted by sections of the Left, Hollande now has three years in which to recover from a near-total rejection by the French public. As Hubert Huertas argues, that will be no easy task.

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How has President François Hollande fallen so low in popularity? That is the political question on everyone's lips. There are many different answers, some of them hypocritical. The most virulent responses come from those groups that were already hostile to Hollande before his election on May 6th, 2012, even if they voted for him simply to get rid of incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy. But the sheer volume of the opposition and the doubts about President Hollande nonetheless lead to a second question: can the economic “turnaround” that the president is promising today really take place and revive his fortunes?

In reality, he will probably need more than a “turnaround”, and not just an economic one. It will need a Golden Age. A Renaissance. It will take a new era, a resurrection, the kind of economic recovery that has been dreamt of by all presidents in the middle of a crisis since Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in the 1970s, but one which has never materialised. No head of state has ever emerged unscathed from such a level of unpopularity, apart from those periods of “cohabitation” where the president and prime minister are from different parties and it is the latter who takes the flak over the economic situation.