Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

31 October 2013

French president François Hollande has been having a rough time lately. In a matter of days his government has had to backtrack twice on planned legislation: the first time, after public outrage at the idea of a new tax on savings, the second after violent agricultural protests in Brittany opposing a new environment levy.

Being consistent is hard, of course, when even your own finance minister says he feels for the French who are fed up with increased taxation. Or when your interior minister manages to infuriate a good portion of the socialist majority – and incidentally, the left-wing electorate – by removing a Roma girl from her school bus to send her back to Kosovo.

Regardless, it’s now official: according to the polling firm BVA, Hollande has become France’s most unpopular president ever – a title he shouldn’t take lightly, given the rather heavy competition.

So how can Hollande fix his own presidency? Well, to start with, he could develop a clear vision for France. It’s hard for any French voter, including myself, to understand where the current cabinet wants to take the country. Ministers keep publicly disagreeing with each other. Fiscal reforms are dubbed necessary one day and shrugged off the next, when my fellow countrymen take to the streets and do what they do best: protest.

It’s also difficult to believe in a government that fails to adapt its rhetoric to its time. Currently, the political conversation in France is limited to asking how to tax the rich more and pondering whether shop owners should or shouldn’t be allowed to do business on Sundays. As economic commentator Eric Le Boucher has put it, this makes it look like the only solution to the crisis is a good old class fight – the 19th-century Marxist kind. Surely France should be past that sort of caricature. We need entrepreneurship, and to create wealth, in order to go forward.

What next, then? Well, it’s up to you, Monsieur Hollande. Either continue governing from one crisis to another, or choose to be a leader. Granted, some of your choices will be unpopular. But at least you can only go up from here.

Daphnée Denis is a producer for Monocle 24.

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