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‘Out of touch’ Hollande slammed after TV interview

Facing plunging approval ratings, French President François Hollande was derided by his political rivals on Friday after struggling to defend his 10 months in office in a primtime televised interview.


French President François Hollande’s appearance on primetime TV on Thursday prompted harsh criticism from both rightwing and far-left rivals, as well criticism from viewers, who expressed disappointment with the president’s performance.

The 8pm interview was dominated by France's economic issues, with Hollande announcing that companies would bare the burden of a 75% tax on salaries over one million euros – a re-packaged version of a tax on individual tax payers that was struck down by France's constitutional court in December. The tax, which follows through on one of his key election pledges, is supported by a majority of the French, but Hollande’s failure to push it through has left many frustrated.

Hollande also pledged not to raise individual income tax in 2014, but acknowledged that in order for France to maintain its current pension scheme, workers would soon have to expect to work for longer.

'Hollow performance'

On Friday, far-right leader Marine Le Pen described Hollande’s interview as “a hollow performance” and derided him for acting as “a provincial governor of the European Union”.

The leader of the centre-right UMP party, Jean-François Copé, said the interview would ensure Hollande lost any remaining support among the French public. “The president is hugely out of touch with what is going on in the country,” he said, claiming Hollande had "finally severed the bond between him and the French people.” Copé also lambasted Hollande for “failing to tackle the country’s massively deteriorating economy”.

Fellow UMP member and former prime minister François Fillon went even further, accusing Hollande of “not only failing to tackle the crisis, but actually making it worse”. He described Hollande’s tenure in office as “10 months lost to the French people” and warned that the situation would only get worse.

But there was also stinging criticism from the far left, whose leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon pounced upon Hollande’s admission that he had not expected the crisis to be “as long or difficult as” it turned out to be. “He was totally wrong in his assessment and he admitted to it,” Mélenchon said. “He’s proved that he doesn’t understand anything about the functioning of the economy.”

Refusing to surrender

Unsurprisingly, fellow Socialist Party members showered the president with praise after Thursday's interview. Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë said that in a particularly difficult economic period Hollande had displayed determination to get the country back on track. “He showed French people that he understands their impatience, and shares their expectations,” Delanoë said.

Socialist Party chief Harlem Désir said Hollande was confronted with an exceptional crisis, but refused to “surrender”. “He will not accept the country’s decline and wants to bring back hope to the French,” Désir noted.

But viewers of the interview were also largely critical. According to a Mediaprism survey published by the right-leaning on Friday, almost two thirds of the eight million people who watched the interview were “unconvinced” by the president’s performance.

Hollande’s Socialist Party (PS) had hoped the increasingly unpopular president could win back some of the public favour he has lost since taking office in June. But the public’s broadly negative response to the interview appeared to compound the president’s unpopularity, with 66% of respondents describing Hollande as “a poor president” after watching the interview.

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