French politics

The “Hollande bashing”

François Hollande, President of the French Republic

With this political back, columnists and other French dailies are lending on the current government policy since the last May. Columns, chronicles and articles are more and critical, not to say severe, pointing out the French President and his Prime minister mainly.

Indeed, if the press is wondering on the Jean-Marc Ayrault’s supposed lack of authority, it is also wondering on the François Hollande’s strategy at the moment the economic indicators are not encouraging. Thus, the French Premier is reproached to not impose himself enough and control the members of his government and the French President is reproached to not know where he is going and which direction he is leading the country, and the comparison with Nicolas Sarkozy is more and more present.

For instance, if Le Point (centre-right weekly) is multiplying critics, L’Express has just followed it with its cover of this week. Even the progressive press as “Marianne” or “Le Nouvel Observateur” is bashing Hollande, hurrying him and his team to start working and get concrete results.

Le Point (centre-right weekly) headline, on the last May

The “Hollande bashing” seems to be a new tendency currently. All the French dailies are vying in ideas to bash the government and a policy which has difficulties to give concrete results towards the legitimistic concerns of the French people.  Columnists as Franz-Olivier Giesbert, Laurent Joffrin or Jean-François Khan keep referring the François Hollande’s motto during the presidential race (“Change is for now”) and want to be connected to an opinion which is more and more wondering on the current governmental policy, as the surveys seems to indicate.

The “Hollande Bashing” is also a way to make the newspapers’ lectors faithful and they keep buying. As Claude Perdriel, Le Nouvel Observateur’s owner explains in a “Le Monde” article, “it is risky for a newspaper to back the power too much”, that explains this strategy. It consists to bash to sell better, that seems quite successful for the conservative press mainly. Thus, Le Point saw its sales increasing on the last May, several weeks after the François Hollande’s victory. And Jean-François Copé, the current UMP leader, did not hesitate to brandish the L’Express headline cover to insist on his declarations and his attacks against the government.

The current François Hollande’s strategy should not surprise anybody insofar as the socialist candidate stated during his presidential campaign the first part of his term would be focused on the re-equilibrium of the public accounts, which supposes a policy mainly targeted on the reduction of the deficits, paying attention to some sectors (as education, public services or security) are not affected both. This is a long-term and a needed policy to get some concrete results. Such a policy, constraining and ungrateful, is not impressive and even painful, which probably explains the impatience of some Frenchs the national press is looking for relaying, which explains the “Hollande bashing”.

Moreover, the François Hollande’s image, the famous “Mr. Ordinary” is still disorientating some columnists, maybe nostalgic of a dazzling and punchy Nicolas Sarkozy. The “Pompidou’s style” of François Hollande is largely different in comparison with we are used to seeing so far and largely different compared with the international and economic context we’re experiencing, which gives the impression of stagnation, slow regarding reforms and explains the current “Hollande bashing”

François Hollande and his Prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, during the Bastille Day, the 14th of July in Paris

So, if the “Hollande bashing” seems to be trendy, it should be regarded more as a reflection of the interrogations some Frenchs have about the rhythm and the impact of reforms than a questioning of the François Hollande’s strategy or his presidential style. The French President, promising change in the same time, well insisted on the fact change would take time and consist to a balance of public accounts, as I wrote before. Indeed, if the French President and the Prime minister is not questioned, Hollande has to be pedagogic in order to his policy is understandable, at least.