Hollande faces fresh pressure as MPs reconvene

8th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

France's embattled President Francois Hollande is poised to face fresh calls for decisive action to haul the country out of a deep political and economic crisis when parliament reconvenes Tuesday.

Hollande, the most unpopular president in modern French history according to the polls, is being urged from all sides of the political spectrum to do something to extract France from its malaise.

"Change policies completely, dissolve (parliament), resign, it's up to the president to choose his exit strategy," said Francois Fillon, a former prime minister and leading figure of the conservative opposition UMP party.

But even those on the left of French politics are sniping at Socialist leader Hollande, with the head of the CFDT union, Laurent Berger, saying: "Adding to the economic and social crisis, we now have a hateful political climate which is adding to the social desperation."

The most immediate risk for Hollande is a vote of confidence in the government of his Prime Minister Manuel Valls on September 16.

Hollande's Socialist Party holds a razor-thin majority, with 290 MPs in a chamber of 577.

In addition, there is the possibility that disgraced former trade minister Thomas Thevenoud, who lasted just nine days in the job before resigning over tax irregularities, may also have to step down as an MP, further slimming the majority.

To get through the vote of confidence, Hollande and Valls will have to rely on the support of 40 or so Socialist rebels on the left wing of the party, who disagree with their economic policy, believing it to be a shift to the right.

- 'No authority' -

Hollande has had a truly terrible few weeks with figures showing growth stagnant and unemployment at record highs.

Added to that was a sudden political crisis in August that forced him to sack two rebel ministers and pull together a hasty reshuffle.

Then came the bombshell of his former partner Valerie Trierweiler's kiss-and-tell memoirs, which depicted him as insincere and cold -- and most damaging of all -- scornful of the poor.

Every day seems to bring new blows in the polls, with a survey published on Monday showing only 11 percent of French voters believe he has authority, and a mere 16 percent think him "competent".

His approval ratings have hit an all-time low of 13 percent and a poll out last week showed he would lose in a presidential election run-off with far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

He is likely to lose control of the upper house Senate on September 28 to the UMP, whose divisive former leader Nicolas Sarkozy is biding his time for a comeback.

A defiant Hollande insisted on Friday that he would see out the rest of his five-year mandate until the end of his term in 2017, but pressure is on him from all sides.

Le Pen's far-right National Front (FN) has called for parliament to be dissolved and for fresh elections to take place.

Even Valls admitted over the weekend that the FN was "at the gates of power", saying that if they were to take power, it would be a "terrible, perhaps fatal blow to Europe".

Francois Bayrou, a centrist heavyweight who backed Hollande in the second round of presidential elections in 2012, slammed the fact that the FN was so prominent in current French political debate.

"Lots of political leaders are like rabbits in the headlight and do not know which side to jump," said Bayrou.

© 2014 AFP

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