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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

How serious is François Hollande about (maybe) not standing for re-election in 2017?

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going," runs the cliché.

And if you just happen to be the French president, François Hollande, it provides an opportunity to throw in the proverbial towel a few years in advance - just in case.

Hollande's statement last week that he might not run for a second term in office in 2017 if he didn't succeed in lowering unemployment in France must have gasted a flabber or two because it was hardly a sentiment you would expect from someone holding the highest office in the land.

“If unemployment doesn’t improve between now and 2017, I have no reason to be candidate and no chance of being re-elected,” Hollande said during a visit to  Michelin's Ladoux research and development site just north of the company's headquarters in the town of Clermont-Ferrand.

And he added - just as he has for the past couple of years - that all the government's energy would be put into fighting unemployment because, "the challenge was the most important one the country faced."

François Hollande during a visit to Michelin (screenshot France 3 report)

Well at least Hollande was being consistent as it's a pledge the French have heard repeatedly ever since he took office in May 2012.

Every month, the (now former) employment minister, Michel Sapin, massaged and reinterpreted the figures to show that while unemployment was on the increase, the rate at which it was rising had slowed down - or so he wanted everyone to believe.

Doubtless, now that Sapin has been moved to the finance ministry, his successor François Rebsamen will (be forced to) do the same.

Meanwhile Hollande, who had promised an absolute decrease by the end of 2013, stuck his head in the sand in true ostrich style and continued repeating his Méthode Coué mantra that unemployment would drop before finally admitting (well he had little choice in the end) that he had failed to reach his objective in one year.

Clearly not one to learn from his mistakes, Hollande has now extended the deadline by another three years and all the time, once again staking his political future on the same objective.

So is it really time for the Socialist party to begin looking around for another potential candidate for 2017 allowing the political manœuvring to gather steam (not that politicians need much encouragement).

Is it simply Hollande blustering and preparing the country for another three years of rising unemployment?

Perhaps it's potential political suicide as some pundits have suggested, should Hollande not be able to pull it off.

Or maybe his apparent commitment is a courageous, but at the same time foolhardy, one.

It's probably anybody's guess - even among those who profess to understand how (French) politics works.

There again, Hollande's definition of what might eventually constitute a turnaround could remain as vague as much of his policy direction has during his (almost) two years in office.

One thing's for sure. Hollande's statement is hardly one which inspires confidence and it surely just adds weight to the belief by many, even within his party, that the cause for the bad showing in the recent local elections was not so much the former government's policies but...Hollande and his style of "non leadership".

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