Under-fire Hollande in 'all-or-nothing' TV test
Francois Hollande, the most unpopular French president in history, will seek to turn the tide on Thursday in a rare prime-time television appearance exactly half-way through his five-year term.
With unemployment stubbornly refusing to go down and Marine Le Pen's far-right Front National (FN) stubbornly refusing to go away, the show is being seen as a last-ditch opportunity to reignite his presidency.
"It's the programme that will save the president.
Or not," said centre-right daily Le Figaro, adding that the 90-minute show was "all or nothing" for the embattled head of state.
Two and a half years after winning the keys to the Elysee Palace, the president who portrayed himself as "Mr Normal" finds himself in the abnormal situation of having to defend his right to run for a second term.
With an approval rating at a historic low of 13 percent and a staggering 97 percent believing he has failed on the economy, more than eight in 10 French people say they do not want Hollande to run in the next election in 2017.
The idea is to "kick off the second half of the presidency," said one of his aides.
"We're not going to stop trying things out.
" But with the political right engaged in an unseemly leadership scrap sparked by the comeback of former president Nicolas Sarkozy and a left-wing rebel group splitting the Socialists, the FN is gaining in popularity.
A recent poll showed Hollande would lose heavily to Le Pen in the first round of a presidential election if one were held now, winning only 13-15 percent of the vote.
During the TV appearance, which starts at 8:30pm local time (1930 GMT), Hollande will answer questions from three reporters as well as a panel of four citizens.
Hollande reportedly dined with a close team of key ministers last night to fine-tune the message and cleared out his diary on Thursday.
"He had lunch with his main advisors and the rest of the time he is in his office and is preparing his arguments.
He's working on the language himself," one member of his entourage told AFP.
© 2014 AFP