Give me time, begs Hollande as his popularity plummets

 

Paris

President François Hollande, facing an unprecedented meltdown in his popularity, today criticised the impatience of French voters but promised that his softly-softly approach would triumph in the end.

In an interview with Le Monde almost six months after his election, Mr Hollande insisted he had not been shocked by his precipitous fall in the opinion polls.

“To be in office today is very tough,” he said. “There is no indulgence and no respect. But I knew that already.”

In a new survey to be published by the market research firm Sofres tomorrow, Mr Hollande’s approval rating sinks to 37 per cent, compared to 62 per cent just after his election in early May. This is the steepest drop in popularity of any newly-elected head of state in 50 years.

Pollsters say the collapse is driven by a belief – on both the right and part of the left – that Mr Hollande has adopted too aloof and plodding an approach to France’s worst economic crisis since the war. There is also fury on the right at threatened tax rises and anger on the left at deficit cutting in the face of zero growth and 10 per cent unemployment.

In his interview, the President admitted he had been wrong to react against the frenetic approach of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy by reverting to the semi-detached style of previous presidents.

He had now “adjusted” to a more hands-on approach.

But Mr Hollande reminded voters that they detested what was widely seen as Mr Sarkozy’s confrontational and divisive attitude to social and economic reform.

“In France, I believe, the changes we need have to be led by the left, through negotiation, with fairness and without injuring or insulting the weakest,” he said. “Other people would have done it more brutally.”

Exactly what economic reforms Mr Hollande and his government are planning remains unclear. A report, commissioned by the President on how to restore France’s international competitiveness is due next week.

It has already been largely shelved because it offended left-wing sensibilities by attacking the 35-hour working week and the high payroll taxes which fund healthcare and other social policies.

After initially talking of a “shock” to improve France’s ability to compete in European and world markets, Mr Hollande now speaks of a “pact”. 

This non-confrontational approach – launching lengthy negotiations with employers and unions – should not be mistaken for inactivity, Mr Hollande said.

“It is easier to make a splash with quick decisions than with slow negotiations… But we will see what I have achieved at the end of five years.” There is increasing nervousness in Berlin that, despite Mr Hollande’s commitment to deficit cutting, the slow pace of French economic reform could provoke a new eurozone crisis in 2013.

These fears were voiced at a conference in Berlin this week not by Chancellor Angela Merkel, but by her Social Democratic predecessor, Gerhard Schröder.

“The greatest problems for Europe are Spain and Italy but also, and I say this discreetly, France,” Mr Schröder said. “And that would not be a minor problem.”

Mr Hollande said he believed French growth would revive, and unemployment start to fall, by the “second half of next year”.

“But there could also be the dark scenario of a recession,” he warned. “As head of state, I must prepare for all hypotheses”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones