December 1, 2016
François Hollande announced on Thursday night that he would not run for a second term in next year’s French presidential elections.
The unprecedented decision was driven by his historically low popularity ratings, which left him little chance of success against centre-right candidate François Fillon and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.
He would also first have had to face a hotly contested and potentially humiliating contest for selection as candidate of his ruling Socialist party.
“Power and the exercise of power have not made me lose my lucidity,” Mr Hollande said in a sombre television address from the Elysée Palace. “I am conscious of the risks that my candidacy would create for the [Socialist] majority. Therefore I have decided not to run for president.”
His prime minister, Manuel Valls, is now expected to run instead in a bid to unite the fractured Socialist party — although he, too, will face stiff opposition from rivals such as Arnaud Montebourg, the leftist firebrand and former economy minister.
I am conscious of the risks that my candidacy would create for the [Socialist] majority. Therefore I have decided not to run for president
Mr Hollande, 62, is the first French president since the second world war not to stand for re-election. His presidency was marked by a series of brutal Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris, Nice and in other parts of the country, and a stubbornly weak economy.
An early round of tax rises after his election in 2012 to close the budget deficit and persistently high unemployment made him deeply unpopular. A midterm switch to pro-business reforms failed to win him back popular support, despite a recent uptick in the economy.
In his TV address, Mr Hollande recited a long list of what he asserted were the achievements of his administration. He cited the resistance of the country to the terrorist atrocities under his leadership and his decisions to use French military force against jihadist forces in Mali, the Central African Republic, Iraq and Syria.
He insisted his reforms had encouraged a recovery that was now underway, with latest unemployment figures showing a decline in the jobless figures that had stuck at around 10 per cent of the workforce. But he acknowledged the turnround had come too late — and admitted he had made mistakes.
With Mr Fillon staking out a policy position firmly to the right, Ms Le Pen is set to step up her populist appeal to disaffected Socialist voters to take advantage of the disarray on the French left.
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