Wednesday

21st Nov 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."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary grants asylum to ex-Macedonia PM
  2. UK court rules against government in Article 50 case
  3. May to meet Juncker on Wednesday to finalise Brexit deal
  4. Future of EU's Mediterranean naval mission in doubt
  5. EU budget talks for 2019 collapse
  6. EU mulls new Russia sanctions over Ukraine 'elections'
  7. EU farm chief 'confident' sugar prices will recover
  8. Researcher: EU expert groups still imbalanced and opaque

Opinion

On Armistice Day, EU is still best gift we can give our children

While young people fought each other in 1918, young people in 2018 travel to study together under the Erasmus programme. But there is a risk of limiting our commemoration to representing the past through just speeches, museum exhibits and visits.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Boycott threats mount on eve of Interpol election
  2. EU parliament to renege on transparency promises
  3. Cyprus and Greece to create EU spy academy
  4. MEPs likely to delay vote on greater transparency
  5. Cold shoulder for Franco-German euro budget plan
  6. Whistleblower: Danske Bank gag stops me telling more
  7. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  8. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us