After the initial euphoria based on promises of more growth, more jobs and more wealth, the clock is ticking on French President Francois Hollande’s recovery plans as the economy sputters along with an ever increasing jobless rate.
Five months into office, Hollande has sought to introduce more taxes on the rich to help restore the country’s finances.
However, his plan for more social welfare without growth-sapping austerity measures suffered a setback as series of polls showed the Socialist’s approval ratings tumbling after a promising start that was short-lived.
A recent survey by OpinionWay showed Hollande had a 42-percent positive rating, down 4 points in October from a month earlier. Former conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy enjoyed a 63-percent approval rating during the same period in 2007, the poll added.
“Hollande is facing serious problems. What’s hard for him is to show that his efforts bore fruits,” said Emanuelle Gault, head of strategic opinion at TNS-Sofres.
“Unfortunately, we don’t see how the president will face the challenge of confidence and how he would overturn negative and structural indicators rapidly,” Gault added.
In the May elections, observers say Hollande won over his opponent more because people had enough of Sarkozy and because the Socialist offered desperate voters a promising outlook amid continuing economic gloom.
In the latest sign of the Hollande’s sliding popularity, an Ifop survey found that Sarkozy would beat the incumbent by 1.5 points in the first round if a presidential election were to held today. It then predicted the two would be tied at 50 percent each in a hypothetical runoff.
Hollande, for his part, has asked to “be judged on results which will take time.”
“During a mandate, there are ups and downs. What matters is we set the course, have the means to reach our goals and the strength to wait for results,” he said.
Hollande took office with unemployment at a 13-year high of 10 percent. He has insisted France would record growth of 0.3 percent this year and 0.8 percent in 2013.
By taxing the rich and collecting more than 30 billion euros (38.9 billion U.S. dollars), Hollande wants to cut the public deficit by 1.5 percentage points to 3 percent of GDP in 2013.
But, if he fails to deliver on his presidential vision, the first Socialist head of state in 17 years could run out of steam and end up as his predecessor who quit the Elysee Palace with record low popularity at 30 percent, feel analysts.
“Hollande’s popularity has declined sharply with a majority of French people not satisfied with his policies,” said Eric Bonnet, director of studies at BVA Opinion.
“But all the same, he remains more popular than Sarkozy was at the end of his mandate since Hollande is not entirely held responsible for the economic and unemployment situation,” he added.
Bonnet warned, however, that the situation may worsen if unemployment rises.