sábado, 16 de abril de 2016
Hollande tries to avoid ‘death by irrelevance’
Hollande tries to avoid ‘death by irrelevance’
The Socialist president doesn’t look like a man in charge, except when it comes to chiding his economy minister.
By PIERRE BRIANÇON 4/15/16, 12:14 AM CET Updated 4/15/16, 5:21 PM CET
PARIS — French President François Hollande tried Thursday night to climb out of historic depths of presidential unpopularity in a long television interview intended to win back the hearts and minds of young and Socialist voters who have deserted him.
But the 100-minute broadcast, where Hollande was interviewed by journalists and four citizens from varied professional and political backgrounds, ended up sounding like a laundry list of reforms and decisions taken since 2012, without any indication of what France’s Socialist president intends to do in his last year in office.
The prime-time TV program — the first such long interview Hollande has given in more than six months — was intended as a way for the president to avoid what one aide earlier this week called “death by irrelevance” in the last year of his five-year term.
It will, however, take more than 100 minutes for Hollande to become a credible candidate to succeed himself. He said he would decide whether to run or not in 2017 “at the end of the year.”
“He knows what he owes me” — François Hollande discussing Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron
“I will reform every single day of my remaining term,” he said at one point in the program, without announcing any new reforms save what has already been announced, such as the labor market reform that is meeting fierce opposition from French unions and students. Hollande insisted that he would not withdraw the bill, contrary to the demands of some union leaders.
Hollande said “things are better” than when he took office four years ago. “But better doesn’t mean good,” he acknowledged.
It may take more than a presidential affirmation, however, to convince French voters that his politics will produce tangible results to shrink the jobless numbers — the criteria Hollande said he wanted to be judged on during his 2012 campaign.
Hollande tried to defend his record and give some coherence to his policies, which have disappointed his electoral base, by explaining that he wanted both to “modernize” France and “protect its social model.”
The modernization part was, he said, the “supply shock” lifting a big tax burden weighing on business, fiscal discipline and the labor market reform intended to boost job creation. The protection part was made up of safeguarding the country’s health and pension systems, better rights for the unemployed and new measures designed to help young workers and students.
Hollande failed to convince Anne-Laure Constanza, a young entrepreneur who interviewed him in the second part of the program on the multiple obstacles to hiring, and told him of her disappointment that he watered down the labor reform bill. Interviewed on French TV after the president had spoken, she told of her “frustration” at what she perceived as the lack of convincing answers.
Véronique Roy, the mother of an Islam convert who traveled to Syria and died there, told Hollande one reason for her son’s and others’ actions was that existing laws on secularism had not been properly enforced in French banlieues for ages.
“I can never promise you that factories will never close” — François Hollande
In his exchange with her, Hollande said 170 French citizens had died in Syria, while 600 — 200 of whom women — are believed to be there still. He said about 2,000 people currently residing in France are considered potential recruits for ISIL.
Antoine Demeyer, a bus driver from the North Region and a supporter of the far-right National Front, asked Hollande about immigration but mostly about the dire economic state of regions such as his, which have paid heavy dues to globalization, with factories closing and whole industries disappearing.
“I can never promise you that factories will never close. What matters is that we can create new activities,” Hollande said.
He was also questioned by Marwen Belkaïd, a 22-year-old business school student who cast his first ever vote for Hollande in 2012 but doesn’t intend to do so again. The president gave a long list of steps his government had taken to improve education in the most socially-challenged cities or districts, but failed to convince his questioner, who said after the program that Hollande “had heard, but not listened.”
Hollande was also asked about his Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, who a few hours earlier in London had refused to rule out running for president in 2017, after launching a political “movement” of his own last week.
“I know his talent,” Hollande said. “He has the right to talk to the French and defend new ideas. But that must be within the team and under my authority. He knows what he owes me. It’s a matter of personal and political loyalty.”
That may have been the only moment in the program that the French president showed some decisiveness and projected the image of a man in charge.