Unpopular & Unwanted – France’s President Hollande Exits … Shamefully

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Dec 02 2016
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Hollande took office in 2012 promising to be “Mr. Normal”, but is forced to exit today as “Mr. Unpopular”. He won his presidency after French people got enough of lavish spending under former president Nicolas Sarkozy. Lived like a king, Sarkozy splurged about US$16,000 per day on food and owns 21 cars that were kept at his Elysee Palace.


Sarkozy’s approval rating plunged from 30% in 2010 to 20% a year later in 2011. But that looks like sexy number in comparison to France’s President Francois Hollande latest approval rating – 4%. Yes, that’s FOUR, not fourteen, let alone forty. On Thursday, Hollande said he would not seek re-election next year, bowing to historically low approval ratings after a troubled term in power.


Hollande’s withdrawal means he is the first president of France to step aside after only 1-term since the “French Fifth Republic” (France’s third-longest-enduring political regime) was founded on 4 October 1958. “I have decided that I will not be a candidate,” a stony-faced Hollande said in a solemn televised statement from the Élysée Palace in Paris.


Often seen next to German Chancellor of German Angela Merkel but mocked as her errand boy, Francois Hollande is also the most unpopular president in French polling history. A new poll on Wednesday predicted he would win just 7% of votes in the first round of next year’s election in April – strengthening his fellow Socialist critics who view him as a lame duck.


The France’s president is so unpopular that even one of his most loyal supporters – Prime Minister Manuel Valls – wants to run against his boss. With Hollande’s disgraceful exit, the Socialist Party will now have to find a candidate to run against Francois Fillon, of the center-right Republican Party, and Marine Le Pen, of the far-right Front National.


His second-in-command Prime Minister Manuel Valls is one of many candidates from Socialist Party expected to join the race for the France presidency, along with former Economy and Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg. A poll of left-wing sympathizers showed that Valls would beat Montebourg in the primary’s runoff round, by 53 to 47 percent.


Other ambitious candidates include Jean-Luc Melenchon, a 65-year-old who placed fourth in the 2012 election with 11% of the vote, and Emmanuel Macron, a 38-year-old former economy minister in Hollande’s administration. Both, who are polling higher than Prime Minister Valls, said they will not participate in the left-wing primary.


In the wake of Brexit and the stunning victory by President-elect Donald Trump, however, the real fight will be between center-right Republican Party François Fillon and far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen. A latest opinion polls suggested Fillon, Prime Minister of France from 2007 to 2012 under President Nicolas Sarkozy, would get 29% votes while Le Pen 23%.


From the start, 62-year-old President Hollande has been screwing up on everything he touched, although he rambled about his achievements during his live TV announcement to the French people. He claimed he had worked to “get France back on track and make it more fair” through reforms to the economy, social security and education.


He talked about climate change signed in Paris last year. He also boasted about legalising gay marriage and keeping France together at an unprecedented time of terror attacks. He said “the results are coming, later than I had promised them, but they are there” on the subject of high unemployment – currently hitting 10%.


But the French people have had enough of Hollande’s incompetency and empty rhetoric before his 1-term ends. His populist programme started with a bang when he forced the wealthiest to help dig the country out of economic crisis by slapping a 75% super-tax rate on earnings above €1 million (£845,000; US$1.06 million; RM4.73 million) – only to drop it halfway.


The super-tax was so unpopular that France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault, the chief executive of luxury group LVMH, took out Belgian nationality. High-earning French footballers threatened strike action, while league bosses warned they would no longer be able to attract world class players. The tax was subsequently adjusted to a 50% rate.


Although a majority of French taxpayers disapproved of the 75% rate, polls showed that 6 out of 10 voters were in favour of raising income taxes on the wealthy. The scrapping of the plan has since alienating his grassroots supporters. But the final in the coffin for Hollande was none other than terrorist attacks, thanks to his common alliance with Merkel allowing free flow of Syrian refugees / migrants.


France has faced 3 major terrorist attacks since January 2015 – first against the Charlie Hebdo magazine (17 people dead), then in Paris (130 people dead) in November and in Nice in July (84 people dead). Even after he sent fighter jets to bomb the Daesh (ISIS, ISIL, IS), the group behind the terrorism, in Syria and Iraq, the French people have lost trust in their commander-in-chief.


Hollande’s private life wasn’t free from sex scandal too. In 2014, French celebrity magazine “Closer” claimed he had been having an affair with actress Julie Gayet for 2 years. Photos of a helmet-wearing Francois Hollande arriving for an assignation with Ms Gayet on the back of a motor scooter were published. Both were allegedly stayed overnight in an apartment in Paris.


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