President François Hollande, beset by domestic and European economic problems and accusations of indecision, has lost the confidence of most French people.
For the first time since his election in May, Mr Hollande's approval rating has fallen below 50 per cent. His Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has also slipped from the mid-60s level which both men enjoyed at the start of the summer. A CSA poll published by Les Echos yesterday put both at 49 per cent.
The slide is predictable but reflects a growing disenchantment with Mr Hollande, especially among left-wing voters. Activists and leaders of his own Socialist party were in a far-from-euphoric mood as they gathered for their annual "summer school" in La Rochelle this weekend. "We are in the twilight zone between the sweetness of victory and the burdens of government," said Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, one of the party barons.
With the French and European economy stalled and unemployment rising, Mr Hollande's low-key, friendly style of leadership is beginning to wear thin. He also faces a possible rebellion within Socialist ranks when he tries to push the European Union fiscal discipline treaty through parliament in the next few weeks. As if in response to concerns that he has moved too far from the frenetic style of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr Hollande will embark on a European tour in the next few days. After talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday, he meets the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Paris today, heads to Madrid on Thursday and Rome the following week.
Even Hollande-leaning parts of the French press have grown restive with his failure to grapple instantly – as promised – with the issue of cutting the deficit and rekindling growth. The centre-left newspaper, Libération, spoke this week of "the very mediocre summer of François Hollande". Le Monde said the President faced "preliminary charges" of "hesitation" and "immobility".
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