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Friday 19th September 2014
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French Left At War Around Unpopular Hollande

Tuesday, 26th August 2014 16:14

A graph drawn showing Francois Hollande's plunging popularity ratings would terrify a downhill skier.

From an election high of 62%, the latest snapshot by L'Institut Francais D'Opinion Publique (LFOP) shows him with just 17% support after his attempts to re-energise the French economy fizzled. 

It's easy to understand why - anaemic growth and record high unemployment continues to dog the Eurozone's second largest economy, acting as a drag anchor on the entire bloc?s recovery.

But it?s Hollande's fumbling of the politics, as well as the economics, which has startled the political elite of Paris.

Hollande is a career politician who rose through the ranks of the Socialist Party - despite a bourgeois upbringing in a wealthy Rouen suburb - so his failure to neutralise the internal squabble is surprising.

He may lack the charisma of a Sarkozy or Mitterrand, but his supporters have always applauded his political nous.

Now, even loyal newspapers are questioning why the beleaguered president didn't sack left-wing firebrand economy minister Arnaud Montebourg earlier, to enforce some semblance of collective responsibility as he attempted to force through unpopular spending cuts and tax increases.

Instead, the president tried to calm the left wing of his party by first including them in key roles in his cabinet and then tolerating their broadsides targeting his own economic policies.

But this weekend Mr Montebourg crossed the line calling austerity a "financial absurdity", a fiery challenge which eventually led to the dissolution of the government.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls is now responsible for cleaning up the mess. He is a social democrat and much closer to the political centre which could help as he sells his reshuffle to the National Assembly next week.

His job is to balance the competing wings of the Socialist Party while driving through an ambitious three-year plan to slash taxes on business, paid for by swingeing cuts to government spending.

The leadership's central argument is that, by cutting the ties that bind French companies, half a million jobs will be created by 2017.

The problem for Mr Hollande is that he is under immediate pressure from Berlin, and the enforcers in the European Commission, to tackle France's budget deficit which is outside the 3% limit set for Eurozone countries.

He is appealing for leniency but the pressure to continue down the path of austerity sets him at odds with a large slice of the electorate and an even greater percentage of his own political party.

The political landscape of France has rarely been so messy; as the left tears itself apart, there's also chaos on the right.

Nicolas Sarkozy is hobbled by several corruption investigations and there is no convincing leader in the wings to replace him as leader of the opposition UMP.

Marine Le Pen, the head of the surging anti-immigration and anti-Euro Front National party, will be sitting back and watching both parties self-immolate.