Will He Weather It? Literally Ever Since Hollande Took Office Life Has Been Stormy

Storms have dogged President François Hollande from the day he took office two years and three months ago. And the bad weather was again unsparing, hours after France’s latest and most serious political crisis broke Monday (Aug 25) with the resignation of the five-month-old Valls government.

IFOP in August asked voters how much confidence they had in the policies of Manuel Valls and François Hollande.

IFOP in August asked voters how much confidence they had in the policies of Manuel Valls and François Hollande.

Just hours after the political crisis hit, the president was pictured drenched and peering through steamed-up glasses while speaking at a World War II commemoration on the Ile-de-Sein off the northwest Brittany coast where most of the population, refusing to accept the Nazi occupation, had fled to the UK to fight for French liberation.

It wasn’t the first time the heavens had opened on the hapless Hollande. On the day of his presidential inauguration (May 15 2012) his open-top motorcade was flooded on the Champs Elysées by a storm of tropical fury which left him, glasses dripping, looking soulfully bedraggled and demeaned.

Hours later the presidential plane was turned back to Paris by violent thunder storms as he set off for a visit (below) to Chancellor Merkel of Germany where he unsuccessfully sought a European growth plan to beat the German-imposed austerity that today lies at the root of his unpopularity — the lowest ratings in modern recorded history!

Indeed it almost seemed that the predictions of his ousted rival Nicolas Sarközy, narrowly defeated in the 2012 ballot, were coming true within hours of the Socialists’ taking office.

Sarközy reportedly told close confidantes days after his defeat:  “Hollande? He’s like sugar in a glass of water, when he faces the realities he will dissolve”.

Here in this 2012 video clip of the presidential visit to Berlin, Merkel shows Hollande how power in the EU is really organised:

And as the Socialist-supporting newspaper Libération notes the president is (in every sense) increasingly isolated:

Now as the French economy stubbornly refuses to grow, with unemployment, bankruptcies and voter discontent all on the boil, the call has gone up for Hollande to dissolve parliament and call an early general election. This would certainly see the Socialists ignominiously booted out and put Marine le Pen’s Front National on a track that could deliver the hard-right the French presidency in 2017. Twitter among other social media is the echo chamber of the growing grassroots dissent and rising demands for Hollande Demission or Hollande resign.

Managing editor Alexis Brézet writing in Le Figaro hours before the new Manuel Valls cabinet was unveiled said the time had come for Hollande to “give voice to the people”

He believes the relationship of trust between the people and the President of the Republic has broken. “Against a backdrop of distrust and abysmal economic disaster, how can he not recognize that a government that has lost its head, a Socialist Party that is crushed, a parliamentary majority that is razor thin, he does not have all the ingredients of a regime in crisis with incalculable consequences for the country?

“The day after his election in 2012, Francois Hollande could – and should – have settled once and for all the absurd promises he made in his campaign and finally told the truth to the French: the Court of Auditors after all offered him all the evidence he needed on a platter. But François Hollande wanted to outwit reality, a reality which has now caught up with him . He no longer has any room for economic manoeuvering. We are seeing the last gasp of the union of the Left, the death of a Socialist Party that converted to the charms of Keynesianism and a ‘French’ way of redistribution only to discover, too late, that Socialism does not work when there is nothing left to redistribute!”

Alexis Brézet then reminds the president of his own fateful words in a 2006 interview with Edwy Plenel, now of the Mediapart website: “If, by chance, on the occasion of a Democratic Audit, a deep crisis occurred or interim elections reflected a different reality from the outcome of the presidential elections, I would take the lesson and depart the presidency”.

Yes, adds Alexis Brézet: “If Hollande wants to save France from its worst economic, financial, political and institutional crisis since 1968, there is only one solution in democracy: give a voice to the people”.

A key danger in the ongoing French crisis of course is that continued mismanagement could bring about a collapse of the Eurozone and even the EU itself, a scenario postulated here by one keen observer of the French scene. Writing on his Slog blog John Ward says: “France and Italy are not peripheral players. The eurozone is facing the beginnings of meltdown”.

UPDATE: Euronews reports on the crisis ahead of the naming of the new cabinet –VallsII — Tuesday August 26.


Story: Ken Pottinger

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