Published: 01 Nov 2012 12:08 GMT+01:00 | Print version
Updated: 01 Nov 2012 12:08 GMT+01:00
French President François Hollande on Thursday admitted facing a "very hard" situation as his popularity ratings dived to a new low amid anger over double-digit joblessness, mass layoffs and shutdowns.
Hollande, who is approaching six months in power, is saddled with a €37-billion ($47 billion) hole in public finances and a moribund economy that is beset by high labour costs and poor competitiveness.
To add to his woes, critics see his prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, as a gaffe-prone ditherer who is often contradicted by his ministers.
"To exercise power nowadays is very hard," Hollande told Le Monde newspaper in an interview. "There is no longer any leniency, any respect. But I knew that.
Hollande, who famously said he does not "like the rich" and fulfilled an election pledge to impose a stinging 75 percent tax on income exceeding one million euros annually, said the time was ripe for sweeping change in France.
His Socialist party was best placed to do that, he added.
"It's better that it's the left that makes this transition and that it does it through negotiation, with justice, without hurting the most fragile sections or not taking them into account.
"The others could have done this, but it would have been brutal," he said.
Hollande's defence came as his ratings dropped by five points in November over the previous month with only 36 percent of the French expressing confidence in him.
Ayrault fared worse at 34 percent in the poll conducted by TNS Sofres-Sopra for Le Figaro magazine.
Hollande's score in the six months after a presidential election was the lowest since Jacques Chirac tallied 37 percent in 1995. Hollande's predecessor
Nicolas Sarkozy had garnered 57 percent support in 2007.
The embattled leader also dismissed criticism that he was trying to bypass hurdles in his efforts to seek solutions to emerge from the crisis.
His opponents point to alleged dithering and U-turns, such as when he bowed to pressure from small businesses this month and rowed back on plans to hike taxes on capital gains.
"I accept this method. One has to take time to decide. Once something is decided it's done," he said.
"Look at Sarkozy. He took three years to unravel his tax shield," he said, referring to his predecessor's measure to help asset-rich but income-poor taxpayers.
The tax shield was aimed at people who had high asset value mainly due to inheritance but did not have correspondingly high levels of annual income. Critics said the measure benefited the rich and Sarkozy finally scrapped it.
But Hollande's wealth tax has prompted a fear that the rich will take capital out of the country and some critics have even called it economic suicide.
The president defended his number two Ayrault, who this week created a storm by suggesting that France's cherished 35-hour working week was not sacrosanct and could be revised before hastily backtracking to the delight of the country's powerful unions but the dismay of employers.
"I know he is loyal," Hollande said.
The president had set himself a two-year deadline to turn the economy around and reverse rising unemployment, currently at over 10 percent after breaching the three-million mark.
But on Thursday, he appeared ambiguous saying: "An (economic) upturn is possible in the second half of 2013 as well as an inversion of the unemployment curve," before evoking a possible "black scenario – that of recession."
"The role of a head of state is to prepare for all hypotheses," he added .
As Carlo Ancelotti paid fulsome tribute to the retiring David Beckham the Paris Saint Germain manager revealed an announcement on his own future may be imminent. READ () »
France's disgraced former budget minister, forced out of office over a tax fraud scandal, will not seek re-election to his former parliamentary seat, a newspaper reported Sunday. READ () »
Spain's world championship leader Marc Marquez will start on pole in Sunday's French MotoGP on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans after coming out on top in Saturday's qualifying. READ () »
A man was arrested on Friday after causing a scare at the Cannes Film Festival, where he attacked a TV studio with a gun loaded with blanks and a dummy grenade, police and witnesses said. READ () »
French actor and newly-minted Russian citizen Gerard Depardieu on Saturday compared President Vladimir Putin to the late Pope John Paul II and said the ex-KGB agent is what Russia needs as a leader. READ () »
France became the 14th country to legalise same-sex marriage Saturday after President Francois Hollande signed the measure into law following months of bitter political debate. READ () »
Struggling French oyster farmers, whose haul has diminished in recent years, are set to receive some much needed help from their Swedish counterparts, by importing oyster spats from Sweden for the first time. READ () »
France's highest court the Constitutional Council cleared the divisive gay marriage bill on Friday, paving the way for same sex unions to become legal. Francois Hollande said he would sign the bill into law as soon as Saturday. READ () »
While many in the world of football raised a glass to David Beckham when he announced his retirement on Thursday, elements in the French media as well as PSG fans in Paris could not hide the fact they feel a little cheated by his minimal contribution on the pitch. READ () »
Thieves have stolen Chopard jewellery worth $1 million at Cannes Film Festival, French police reported on Friday. The jewellery was due to be loaned to film stars over the coming days. READ () »