21:46 GMT +323 October 2019
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    French president Francois Hollande is pictured during a meeting with the French Foreign Affairs Minister and figures from the cultural world and members of associations committted to peace in Syria, on October 14, 2016 at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris

    Hollande's 2016: Year of Records, Rejection, Riots, Resignation

    © AFP 2019 / MARTIN BUREAU
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    French President Francois Hollande is spending his final Christmas and New Year as guardian of the Elysee Palace, mulling a year which his seen his popularity plummet to a record low after a year of protests and riots, which finally saw him relinquish the chance of another crack at the presidency.

    Hollande will go down as the president with the lowest popularity ratings of the Fifth Republic and the first not to seek re-election for over 50 years.

    Hollande knew his unpopularity — ultimately — was down to his being unable to turn round the fortunes of the French economy and the fact that he caused massive anger over his deeply unpopular reforms to France's strict labor laws

    The controversial changes — which have seen unions and students stage months of strikes and protests — gave employers more scope to lay-off workers, cut costs and allow some employees to work far longer than the current maximum 35-hour week.

    Security forces clash with demonstrators during a protest called by seven labour unions and students against the labour and employment law reform on May 26, 2016 in Bordeaux, southwest France.
    © AFP 2019 / Georges Gobet
    Security forces clash with demonstrators during a protest called by seven labour unions and students against the labour and employment law reform on May 26, 2016 in Bordeaux, southwest France.

    Hollande has suffered from the stubbornness of the French unemployment rate, which has failed to budge far from its ten percent rate during his presidency. He had staked his reputation on getting it into single figures before deciding to stand for the presidency again.

    A demonstrator holds up his guitar in support of temporary arts workers, known as intermittents, who occupy the Odeon theater in Paris, France, April 26, 2016, to protest against the change of their unemployment benefits.
    © REUTERS / Charles Platiau
    A demonstrator holds up his guitar in support of temporary arts workers, known as "intermittents", who occupy the Odeon theater in Paris, France, April 26, 2016, to protest against the change of their unemployment benefits.

    His labor reforms were unpopular with the unions and his own Socialist party, which was already lambasting him for rolling back on plans to tax the super-rich at 75 percent for those earning over US$1 million. His own economy minister Emmanuel Macron — now also standing for the presidency — described the supertax as "Cuba without the sun."

    Meanwhile, his approval ratings have fallen to a record low, at just four percent, according to a poll conductd in October 2016 by French newspaper Le Monde.

    This is down from 29 percent in January 2015 — following before the Charlie Hebdo and other terrorist attacks for which he drew praise for his handling of the atrocity.

    He came to power in 2012 with a 63 percent approval rating.

    Striking workers of the French state-run rail operator SNCF, backed by French unions CGT and Sud-Rail, protest with flares during a demonstration against reform plans proposed by the French government, on June 18, 2014, at the Austerlitz train station in Paris
    © AFP 2019 / FRED DUFOUR
    Striking workers of the French state-run rail operator SNCF, backed by French unions CGT and Sud-Rail, protest with flares during a demonstration against reform plans proposed by the French government, on June 18, 2014, at the Austerlitz train station in Paris

    However, months of continuing strikes and protests — affecting state airliner Air France, railroad company SNCF and many other unions — brought down his political worth. The November 13 terror attacks in Paris added ammunition to the belief that France was not safe under his leadership.

    French fire brigade members aid an injured individual near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris, France, November 13, 2015
    © REUTERS / Christian Hartmann
    French fire brigade members aid an injured individual near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris, France, November 13, 2015

    Despite another spike in his approval rating in the weeks that followed, the figure continued to slide.

    Police Exhaustion

    He also saw a backlash from the police, who had become exhausted by the continuing imposition of emergency powers, which had added massive overtime to the already burdened law enforcement agencies. They also had to contend with riots against the police in areas of major cities that had become no-go zones, because of cutbacks in police resources over the years. 

    Police officers stand in front of the Louvre Pyramid designed by Chinese-born U.S. Architect Ieoh Ming Pei during a protest against anti-police violence in Paris, France, November 1, 2016
    © REUTERS / Christian Hartmann
    Police officers stand in front of the Louvre Pyramid designed by Chinese-born U.S. Architect Ieoh Ming Pei during a protest against anti-police violence in Paris, France, November 1, 2016

    Hollande's final indignity was the fact that he was to face a primary election, in his Socialist Party, for the candidacy with his Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, the frontrunner to take him on. Opinion polls showed Hollande stood no chance of winning the presidency and he fell on his sword.

    ​Having been vilified for his indecision and lack of ability to tackle the problems with the economy and unemployment, it is ironic that he looked at the possibility of becoming the first French president since the war not to seek re-election and took the historic decision not to do so.

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    Tags:
    French 2017 election, terror attacks, Charlie Hebdo, Paris attacks, labor code, strikes, presidency, terrorism, French Presidential Election 2017, French Socialist Party, Francois Hollande, Europe, Paris, France
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