Wednesday

8th Feb 2023

Analysis

Hollande's withdrawal increases election uncertainties

  • Hollande on TV: "I am conscious of the risks that would entail a move that would not gather enough support" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

French president Francois Hollande will not run for reelection, in a recognition of his political weakness that only adds to the uncertainties for next year's vote.

Hollande, in a TV address on Thursday (1 December) said, "I have decided not to be a candidate for the presidential election, to the renewal of my mandate."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Prime minister Manuel Valls (r) is now expected to run for president (Photo: French PM office)

"I am conscious of the risks that would entail a move that would not gather enough support," the president said to explain his decision, a first in modern French history.

He said that power had not made him "lose lucidity on myself, on the situation," and that he could not split his Socialist Party and the left with another candidacy.

"It would deprive [the left] of any hope to win against conservatism and, even worse, against extremism," he said.

In two opinion polls earlier this week, 7-7.5 percent of people said they would vote for Hollande in the first round of the presidential election, against 29-30 percent for the new center-right candidate Francois Fillon and 23-24 percent for far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Hollande's popularity has been falling almost since he took office in 2012 with enduring economic troubles, high unemployment, and fears over security despite a response to terrorist attacks seen by many as adequate.

On Sunday, Hollande's prime minister Manuel Valls said in a newspaper interview that the left had "not a chance" to win the election if Hollande ran.

He added that he would decide, "in all good conscience," whether he himself would run. Both men had to deny rumours of Hollande firing Valls.

After Hollande's speech on Thursday evening, Valls said in a statement that the president's decision was "the choice of a statesman."

Valls is now expected to announce his candidacy, before running the gauntlet of the left's primary election in January.

Thirteen candidates

In a sign of how challenged Hollande was in his own camp, seven candidates have already announced that they were running for the primary, with six others skipping the primary, going straight for the presidential election

Among them are Hollande's former economic minister Emmanuel Macron, a centre-left liberal, and radical left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon. Both men polled ahead of Hollande this week, respectively with 15-16 and 12 percent support.

Ten days after his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy was knocked out in the first round of the right primaries, Hollande's withdrawal confirms the presidential election in April and May will not be a rerun of the 2012 vote between the two.

The possibility of a confrontation between France's last two presidents was considered an advantage to Le Pen, who runs on an anti-establishment platform, who all polls say will qualify for the second round of the election.

But if Valls wins the left primaries, the election will feature Hollande and Sarkozy's former prime ministers, Valls and Fillon. Whether they will be seen as a new choice by voters remains to be seen.

Valls, as PM and before that as interior minister, has cultivated an image of strong man, especially after the series of terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016 when he said that the state of emergency would remain until the Islamic State group is defeated.

He is also considered as too liberal by the left wing of his own Socialist Party and by the radical left, while his government's reform of the labour market was met with protests.

At least four uncertainties

Until recently he remained loyal to Hollande and will find it hard to distance himself from his boss's record. In the latest polls, he fared only slightly better than Hollande, with 9-9.5 percent support.

The main question until now was who would be Le Pen's opponent in the second round next year, but Hollande's decision not to run doesn't increase the left's chances in the short term.

The result of next year's election will now depend on at least four things:

Will Valls be able to invent a new Socialist narrative?

Will Macron be able to appear a serious alternative without party backing?

Will Fillon be able to appeal to voters other than the older, urban upper-class voters who chose him in the right primaries?

Will Le Pen be able to maintain her image of a fresh and credible alternative in face of three unexpected candidates?

Fillon leads French right primary as Sarkozy falls

The former French president came third in the first round of the centre-right primary election on Sunday. Francois Fillon, a pro-Russia conservative, is the new favourite for next year's presidential vote.

EU lobby register still riddled with errors

The EU's lobby register remains riddled with errors, with pro-transparency campaigners demanding better data and mandatory rules. The latest findings come amid a raft of proposals by the European Parliament president to weed out corruption in the wake of Qatargate.

Opinion

Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'

The scars of Brexit have left their mark in communities across Wales. The Menai mussel industry has experienced a sharp decline having once been a staple in fish counters and restaurants across Europe; its business model wrecked by post-Brexit rules.

Column

Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue

All member states complain about European compromises, each for their own reasons. Nevertheless, these decisions tend to be robust precisely because there is enough in them for everybody. And nobody wants to start negotiating all over again for another deal.

Latest News

  1. Polish MEP also went on freelance Azerbaijan trip
  2. Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue
  3. Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'
  4. MEPs to vote on risky 'hydrogen for home heating' rule
  5. The man who won't stop filing info requests until every EU doc is public
  6. EU hands Libya coast guard boats ahead of migration summit
  7. Eleven suicides daily — Spain's not-so-silent pandemic
  8. The return of Lula means now is the time for EU-Mercosur deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWWEU Social Dialogue review – publication of the European Commission package and joint statement of ETUFs
  2. Oxfam InternationalPan Africa Program Progress Report 2022 - Post Covid and Beyond
  3. WWFWWF Living Planet Report
  4. EFBWWEFBWW Executive Committee report on major abuses, labour crime and subcontracting
  5. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  6. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us