It has not been a good week for French president François Hollande.
Facing an unemployment rate of three million that is steadily increasing, growth predictions of little over zero per cent and one of the harshest budgets to come out of the French treasury in living memory, things are looking bleak for the French president.
Hollande’s government has blamed former president Nicholas Sarkozy’s regime for the above issues. France’s Labour Ministry has stated:
“These three million unemployed embody the failure of economic and social policies undertaken during the last few years.”
However, Hollande has witnessed his approval ratings fall from 55% in the June following his election, to just 41% during the first week of October according to a TNS-Sofres poll for French magazine, Figaro.
With such worrying economic figures and his favourability rating on the slide, president Hollande must be asking where he can go next.
Most political leaders expect to be unpopular with some of the electorate, after all it is often the case that roughly half wouldn’t have voted for them in the first place, yet president Hollande’s dramatic fall in popularity is a startling reflection of the current public attitude in France.
Hollande defeated Sarkozy in the presidential election largely because of his promise to reduce living costs and cut unemployment. Yet he has so far failed to achieve either.
It’s still early days for Hollande whose first term will expire in 2017, but the French electorate clearly expected more from their president than he has delivered in his first months in office.
Responding to criticisms about his dwindling support, Hollande said:
“Obviously people have much higher expectations at the very beginning, but it’s the end of the mandate that matters. I want to be judged on the results and that is going to take time.”
This may be the case, but the French electorate must be wondering when things will start to improve.
The president’s first budget has been lauded by his supporters, with 89% of them approving of his work so far. Yet he has still been heavily criticised by the opposition and right-wing voters.
They allege that certain provisions, such as temporarily lowering the cost of petrol and subsidising salaries of young people in deprived areas, are merely window dressing for a President and an economy on the rocks.
President Hollande must now turn his eye to the future. Without substantial improvements in France’s economic prospects, Hollande will undoubtedly face a difficult, if not impossible, fight for re-election in 2017.
One thing is certain however: the cheering crowds that met the president during his May inauguration are not cheering so loudly now.