After Hollande Steps Aside, Valls Is the Only Serious Candidate

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, President François Hollande and other French Socialist Party leaders listen to a speech in Paris, September 8
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, President François Hollande and other French Socialist Party leaders listen to a speech in Paris, September 8 (PS/Mathieu Delmestre)

François Hollande bowed to reality on Thursday, when the Socialist Party leader announced he would not seek a second term as president of France.

No leader in the history of the Fifth Republic has been less popular than Hollande, whose approval rating hit a 4-percent low in one survey last month. Read more

Hollande Torpedoes Candidacy, Socialists Seek Replacement

French president François Hollande and Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven attend a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28
French president François Hollande and Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven attend a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28 (PES)

French president François Hollande has exhausted what little goodwill he had left in his party by airing his views of other top officials.

There was never any doubt that Hollande — the least popular president in French postwar history — would lose his reelection bid next year. But the Socialist Party was willing to follow him into defeat, owing to the absence of an uncontroversial successor and a political culture of deference.

That has changed since the release of Un président ne devrait pas dire ça… (“A President Should Not Say That…”) earlier this month. Read more

Hollande Hopes to Emerge Stronger from Primary

Prime Minister Manuel Valls and President François Hollande of France speak at the Elysée Palace in Paris, June 15, 2016
Prime Minister Manuel Valls and President François Hollande of France speak at the Elysée Palace in Paris, June 15, 2016 (Elysée)

France’s Socialists said on Sunday they will after all organize a presidential primary for the 2017 election, forcing François Hollande to beat off several left-wing challengers before he can pivot to the general election.

It is the first time a sitting Socialist Party president is forced to prove himself in a primary.

Hollande’s critics invoked standing party rules, which do require a nominating contest.

Except those rules were only written in 2011 to allow for a then-unprecedented open primary on the left. The Socialist Party leadership could have easily thrown out the rulebook from five years ago and made Hollande’s life easier.

The fact that they didn’t says a lot about how weak the president’s position is. Read more

Copé, Macron Highlight Timidity of French Parties

French economy minister Emmanuel Macron visits New York, June 25, 2015
French economy minister Emmanuel Macron visits New York, June 25, 2015 (Consulat de France à New York/Laure Boutteau)

French economy minister Emmanuel Macron launched a political movement on Wednesday that he says aims to unite people from the left and the right around a program of reform.

Macron, nominally a Socialist, denied that the movement is meant to propel him into a presidential candidacy for 2017, but French presidential hopefuls do have a tendency to launch political “movements” one of two years out from an election.

Macron’s announcement comes only days after former conservative party secretary Jean-François Copé launched his own bid for the presidency. The rightwinger fell out with his former boss and current party leader, Nicolas Sarkozy, in 2014 over a financial scandal and would now seek to deny him the Republicans’ presidential nomination.

Neither Copé nor Macron is likely to end up as a presidential candidate, let alone president of France. But the noise they’re making speaks volumes about the perceived timidity of their respective party leaders: Sarkozy and his successor, François Hollande. Read more

Labor Reforms Divide France’s Ruling Socialists

French president François Hollande answers questions from reporters outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, April 13, 2013
French president François Hollande answers questions from reporters outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, April 13, 2013 (Valsts Kanceleja)

Leading Socialist Party lawmakers took to the page of Le Monde on Thursday to condemn labor reforms planned by President François Hollande.

“Enough is enough!” write Martine Aubry and seventeen other leftwingers. They argue that Hollande’s belated attempts to liberalize the labor market will “weaken” France in the long term.

Aubry is the architect of France’s 35-hour workweek and contested the Socialist Party’s presidential nomination in 2011. Hollande bested her at the time with 57 to 43 percent support. Read more

Hollande Reshuffles Cabinet in Attempt to Unite Left

German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with French president François Hollande at a G7 summit in Bavaria, June 11, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with French president François Hollande at a G7 summit in Bavaria, June 11, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

French president François Hollande reshuffled his cabinet on Thursday in an attempt to unite the left ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections next year.

The Greens, who left Hollande’s coalition in 2014 when he appointed a relative centrist, Manuel Valls, as prime minister, are back. Three of their members got cabinet posts, including party leader Emmanuelle Cossé.

Jean-Marc Ayrault, Valls’ predecessor, also returns. He replaces Laurent Fabius as foreign minister whom Hollande nominated to the job of president of the al Council.

Jean-Michel Baylet, leader of the socially liberal Radical Party of the Left and one of Hollande’s competitors in the Socialist Party’s 2011 primary, was named minister of territorial development. Read more

French Labor Reforms Once Again Underwhelm

French president François Hollande speaks at a conference in Paris, January 12
French president François Hollande speaks at a conference in Paris, January 12 (Elysée)

French president François Hollande unveiled €2 billion worth of job-boosting measures on Monday in an effort to bring down unemployment ahead an expected reelection bid next year.

Likening France’s persistently high unemployment rate to a “state of emergency,” the Socialist Party leader announced the creation of half a million vocational training schemes, new apprenticeships and subsidies for small companies.

“We have to act so that growth becomes more robust and job creation more abundant,” the president told business and labor leaders in Paris.

Hollande earlier vowed now to seek reelection in 2017 if unemployment hasn’t come down by then. The rate has been stuck at 10 percent since he was first elected in 2012. Read more