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“Things are going better,” unpopular Hollande tells voters

French President Hollande is seen before appearing on France 2 television prime time live programme for an interview at the Musee de l'Homme in Paris

Dogged by deep unpopularity, President Francois Hollande on Thursday tried to convince sceptical voters that his policies were bearing fruit, in a television show billed as critical for his dim prospects of re-election next year.

The Socialist leader, plagued by a promise to shrink a jobless rate that has remained above 10 per cent since he took office in 2012, said he would keep carrying out reforms to try to reduce unemployment until the end of his mandate.

“Things are going better: there is more growth, less deficit, more competitiveness, better margins for companies, more purchasing power for workers,” Hollande said hours after opinion polls showed an overwhelming majority of French do not want him to seek a second mandate next year.

“This (reforms) is what I’ve been doing for the past four years and I will continue until the end,” said Hollande. “I will be focusing on reforms every day, until the very last day of my mandate.”

The Odoxa polling agency published a poll showing 76 per cent of voters believed Hollandeshould stand aside next year for a better Socialist candidate.

More worryingly, the poll, which tallied with one on April 9 by Ifop, showed that this was a view shared by 66 percent of people who customarily voted for left-wingers.

“In this president, the French no longer believe,” said the front page headline of Le Parisien, the newspaper for which the poll was conducted.

Another poll published on Thursday showed that a massive 87 per ent of respondents were unhappy with his record after four years of a five-year term.

The only solace from the Elabe survey was that 65 per cent believed his centre-right predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy would have done no better. Sarkozy is expected to run again in 2017 if he can overcome opponents in his own camp.

Sarkozy himself faced a rockbottom approval rating one year from the end of his term, albeit with a somewhat less grim 70 per cent disapproval rating in an April 2011 poll by the LH2 polling group.

Hollande was elected in May 2012 on a left-leaning platform but switched tack as the economy faltered to embrace more pro-business reforms. That has eroded support among traditional backers and brought unions and young people onto the streets to protest, even though the reforms have been watered down.

Adding to the perception of a wavering leader, he was pressured into dropping plans drafted after last year’s Paris attack to strip people convicted of terrorism of their passports.

Recent polls have shown Hollande failing to make the second run-off round of the election, regardless of who runs against him, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen seeing making it to the runoff.


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