Why Hollande did a U-turn over presidential primary


Traditionally, incumbent French presidents do not take part in primary elections when standing for re-election and are simply anointed as their party's natural candidate. And up to now France's socialist president François Hollande has insisted he saw no need for such a contest on the Left ahead of next year's presidential election. However, out of the blue the Socialist Party has just announced plans for a primary election in January 2017 in which Hollande will take part. Hubert Huertas considers whether the surprise move will give Hollande's dwindling re-election prospects new hope - or will simply finish off his chances altogether.

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In the end, something had to give. When France's Fifth Republic was set up under Charles de Gaulle the idea was that its institutions would constitute a form of buttress for the president. But that did not mean the presidency itself was immune to collapse. It is true that, by bypassing Parliamentary votes on key legislation, the current presidency has maintained the appearance of power, rather as Soviet embalmers preserved the appearance of Lenin. But in reality President François Hollande is already a political casualty, rejected by public opinion and defied by his own lieutenants.