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Unpopular Francois Hollande seeks TV redemption in Paris

Paris, Nov 5 (AFP) Hours after winning the presidency, a beaming Francois Hollande emerged in front of a crowd of flag-waving, cheering supporters and said he was proud to have given some hope back to France.

Two and a half years later, exactly half-way through his term, the president who set himself up as “Mr Normal” finds himself in a highly abnormal position: never has a French head of state been so unpopular. With an approval rating at a historic low of 13 percent and a staggering 97 percent believing he has failed on the economy, more than eight in 10 French people say they do not want Hollande to run for a second term. And with even his own camp saying privately there is a feeling of “end of days” around the presidential Elysee Palace, Francois Hollande will on today give a rare prime-time television interview in a desperate bid to claw back some ground. His record so far, especially on the economy, has been little short of disastrous.

Unemployment has risen 27 months out of the 30 he has been in charge and growth has ground to a halt. He came to office vowing to get France’s budget deficit below three percent of output — as EU rules demand — but has since pushed the deadline back from 2013 to 2017, infuriating partners in Brussels and austerity-minded Berlin. Added to the political and economic woes are difficulties in his personal life following a bitter tell-all book by former partner Valerie Trierweiler that painted a picture of a cold and scornful man. Close aides worry about the loneliness at the top. “He doesn’t ever get together with his friends,” said one. And the heady days of May 6, 2012, when he gave that speech in his heartland of Tulle, now seem “long off”, admits Albert Trigot, owner of a brasserie in the square Hollande addressed.

“People knew it was going to be difficult whoever was elected. But they are disappointed, including on the left of politics. For a year, it’s been getting harder,” Trigot told AFP.

Another Tulle resident, Jose Da Silva, said: “Whether it was him or someone else, the result would have been the same. But he has made a lot of promises he hasn’t kept.” “He doesn’t bang his fist on the table enough. I was expecting a much more forthright president.” In fact, Francois Hollande‘s consensual style has become a perceived weakness at a time of political and economic crisis, said Frederic Dabi from the Ifop polling group.


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