Its two years now since Francois Hollande landed the top job in France and things have not been going well since then for the French president. Reviewing the first half of his presidency Hollande recognised that he has so far failed in his ambitions to revive the flailing French economy as much as he wanted.
In a TV phone in interview the President recognised the “anger” that he knew the French people were directing towards him and acknowledged that currently he has very little to lose.
Now Hollande has gone a step further and stated that if he fails to cut the levels of unemployment and improve the outlook of the French economy then he will not stand for re–election, but is he right to make such a statement?
Well, as Hollande stated himself, if he can’t make a substantial difference to the French economy now then what will he have to offer the French electorate for the future? This seems a fair point to make. The likelihood is that, with such poor recent showings in municipal elections and a lack of optimism for the European elections, Hollande would be voted out of power anyway. Perhaps a change of direction and some definite action is what the French people want to see from their leader.
Still, by giving himself these conditions Hollande is clearly setting himself up for an even bigger fall. With only three years left on the clock it seems improbable that he can turn the whole thing around and improve the French economy. More importantly his shattered relationship with the French people still needs improvement following the revelations about his private life that surfaced in January.
Hollande’s statement could be seen as that of a desperate politician trying to delay the inevitable and find some sort of easy exit. The French people have fallen out of love with their Socialist leader and if current ratings are anything to go by it might be a while before they elect another one.
One things still remains a puzzle and perhaps a loophole for President Hollande. He claims that he will not stand if he considers himself to have failed to address France’s economic issues. He has set no specific targets that he must reach meaning even the slightest amount of growth or improvement could constitute a success for the President giving him the excuse to re-stand for election in 2017.
Still, it seems that Hollande is serious about changing his fortunes and those of France. This week he has changed his cabinet and installed one of the more controversial members of his party, the more moderate Manuel Valls, as his prime minister. Valls is determined to take on Europe and try and give France more time to sort out its financial situation.
Hollande has also announced spending cuts that will try and fund some serious tax cuts for French businesses. So things seem to be going in the right direction, but is the President trying to move things too quickly and is it a case of too little too late?
It is not likely that Hollande will meet his own criteria, but it will be interesting to see if he sticks to his promise. And if he does what is the future for the French Socialist party and, indeed, for France?