Thursday

19th Apr 2018

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."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

Analysis

New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability

The EU's latest funding rules for European political parties and their think tanks fails to address the underlying problems of abuse. Instead of tackling the loans and donations culture, it has simply made access to EU funds a lot easier.

MEPs set limits to Macron's ambitions

The French president tried to woo the European Parliament but found that his quest for leadership will have to abide by the rules set by the European political groups.

Getting secret EU trilogue documents: a case study

On Thursday, the European Parliament will vote on a political deal on organic farming, following 19 months of behind-closed-doors negotiations. EUobserver here details a five-month odyssey to get access to the secret documents that led to the deal.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  2. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  3. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  4. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  5. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  6. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  7. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit
  8. Merkel and Macron meet to finetune eurozone reform plans

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeParabéNs! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  2. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  3. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  4. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  5. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  6. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  10. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector

Latest News

  1. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  2. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  3. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  4. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists
  5. Getting secret EU trilogue documents: a case study
  6. Selmayr case scars Parliament and Commission
  7. Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties
  8. 'Flobert' guns - Europe's latest terror loophole

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  2. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  3. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  4. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  5. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  6. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  7. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  8. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  9. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  10. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  11. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  12. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership