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: Systems and Network Support Analyst

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: IT Systems Support Analyst

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests