Gaffes embitter voters, but can also awaken a healthy mistrust
The China Post news staff
January 18, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
French President Francois Hollande had spent a long time preparing for the press conference on Tuesday to unveil his plans to rejuvenate France's economy. Instead the politician was forced to admit that he was having a "difficult moment" in his private life.
Recent reports of Hollande's alleged affair with actress Julie Gayet have threatened his long-anticipated chance to salvage his struggling presidency. While the French public is generally more tolerant of their politicians' affairs than those in other Western nations, the high drama involving a possible love triangle and a celebrity has embarrassed the president, who has contrasted his down-to-earth lifestyle against that of his glamorous predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.
During his 2012 campaign, Hollande was hailed as "Mr. Normal" against the "bling bling" president Sarkozy. The underlining message was that the sober working-man's president would work hard for the French people, while the bling-focused Sarkozy was too occupied with himself and his rich friends to care. Instead, around one year into his presidency, Hollande became the most unpopular president in the fifth republic, as the French economy stagnated and unemployment reached record highs.
The main reason behind France's problem under Hollande's watch is of course the economy. Limited by the EU policy of austerity, he was forced to cut the government budget down to three percent of GDP while trying to stimulate its economy. His promised policy targeting high finance to cover the expenses — including a 75-percent tax rate on those earning at least 1 million euros — backfired and his socialist supporters found the president doing what they hated most — raising taxes and cutting public spending.