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“The lowest approval rating for a president in modern French history,” is how the broadsheets are rounding up the consensus on Francois Hollande, after his contentious first year in office draws to a close. It seems the president has failed to ignite the public with his charm, alienated some of its most beloved national celebrities (Gérard Depardieu), and is staring at record unemployment (the highest in 16 years). Although the numbers don’t look good on the economic side of things, it also seems that the president has been fighting a losing PR battle – this man just doesn’t have Carla Bruni on his arm, amongst other media-savvy ploys. In fact, he doesn’t have much media savvy at all, having been dubbed “Mr. Weak” by the French press, and his policies have only added fuel to that fire; it’s hard to win friends with the country’s elite when you tax them 75%.
But as is always the case in politics, if an economic recovery doesn’t appear on the horizon soon, Hollande will not have the luxury of being the whipping boy any longer. He also has the enormous hurdle of consolidating his own Socialist-leaning party, now strongly divided over his policies and governance. This is a major problem for Hollande, and one that must be addressed even faster than the flagging economy. “He is reforming the labor market in ways that are raising the ire of unions…On Sunday tens of thousands of protesters, including union members, marched on the streets of Paris to remonstrate against the Socialist president’s government,” reported CNN, and these are supposed to be his constituency. Not a good position to be in.
Add to these troubles the fact that the man doesn’t have the charisma to at least create a smokescreen whilst the country crumbles. Say what you will, but many a leader has survived public opinion disasters if they are just able to create the illusion of wellbeing. Politics is more than numbers; Hollande doesn’t have a grasp of either at this point.