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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map