After Hollande Steps Aside, Valls Is the Only Serious Candidate

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.

Hollande squandered what little goodwill he had left when Un président ne devrait pas dire ça… (“A President Should Not Say That…”) appeared last month: a tell-all book in which the outgoing president is quoted disparaging other Socialist Party bigwigs, including his prime minister, Manuel Valls, and foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Both were reportedly outraged by the publication, which dumbfounded the entire French political class. It will only help cement Hollande’s legacy as an inapt and feckless president, who failed to balance competing interest in the ruling Socialist Party and was unable to revitalize the French economy.

Unemployment, at 10 percent, is at the same level as when Hollande took office in 2012. Growth has been lackluster ever since. Read more “After Hollande Steps Aside, Valls Is the Only Serious Candidate”

Hollande Torpedoes Candidacy, Socialists Seek Replacement

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 Torpedoes Candidacy, Socialists Seek Replacement”

Hollande Hopes to Emerge Stronger from Primary

The French Socialists will after all organize a presidential primary for the 2017 election, forcing François Hollande to beat off left-wing challengers before he can pivot to the general election.

It is the first time a sitting Socialist 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 “Hollande Hopes to Emerge Stronger from Primary”

Copé, Macron Highlight Timidity of French Parties

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 “Copé, Macron Highlight Timidity of French Parties”

Labor Reforms Divide France’s Ruling Socialists

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 “Labor Reforms Divide France’s Ruling Socialists”

Hollande Reshuffles Cabinet in Attempt to Unite Left

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 “Hollande Reshuffles Cabinet in Attempt to Unite Left”

French Labor Reforms Once Again Underwhelm

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 “French Labor Reforms Once Again Underwhelm”

French Socialists Not Ready to Replace Hollande

With the lowest approval rating of any French president in recent history, François Hollande could do his Socialist Party a favor by not seeing reelection in 2017.

The left-wing leader suggested on Monday he would step aside if he failed to bring down unemployment — which has been over 10 percent since he narrowly defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.

“If there are no results, there can be no credibility for a candidacy,” he said at a Paris dinner hosted by the presidential press association. Read more “French Socialists Not Ready to Replace Hollande”

France’s Hollande Unlikely to Risk More Reforms Until 2017

Elections in France this year and next could doom any chance of deeper economic reform even as the country seems incapable of bringing down unemployment.

Stuck at over 10 percent since he came to power in 2012, the high jobless rate has weighed down on President François Hollande’s popularity. With an approval rating under 20 percent, the incumbent seems unlikely to win reelection in 2017. But he is still running and should want to avoid dividing his Socialist Party on economic policy.

The next regional elections are due in December. Called after a reorganization that saw the number of regions cut from 22 to thirteen, the Socialists are gearing up for another defeat. They have lost all local elections since Hollande beat the conservatives’ Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 with 51.6 percent of the votes.

Party unity has been tested by Hollande’s late conversion to liberalization. Read more “France’s Hollande Unlikely to Risk More Reforms Until 2017”

Greece Has United Europe Against It — Except France

A Greek exit from the euro would be less divisive now than half a year ago. The antics and demands of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras have exhausted nearly every other European country’s patience. It seems only France is still in favor of continuing support to keep Greece on board.

Since the Greek crisis began in 2010, the country has been a proxy for a wider discussion among countries about what sort of Europe they want.

Germany and its allies in the Baltics, Central Europe, Finland and the Netherlands took a hard line from the start, largely ruling out debt forgiveness and conditioning financial support for Greece on economic reforms and spending cuts.

The aim of shrinking the Greek state and liberalizing its economy was to boost the nation’s competitiveness, see it converge more closely with the rest of Europe and avoid — at all costs — a “transfer union” in which rich member states would permanently bail out the poor. Read more “Greece Has United Europe Against It — Except France”