France’s Hollande says will not seek re-election
PARIS – Agence France-PresseFrench President Francois Hollande dramatically announced Dec. 1 he would not seek re-election next April at the end of his five-year term as he bowed to historic low approval ratings.
The withdrawal means the 62-year-old Socialist will be the first president of France’s fifth republic, founded in 1958, to quit after just one term.
“I have decided that I will not be a candidate,” Hollande said in a solemn televised address from the Elysee Palace in Paris.
He conceded he had failed to rally his deeply divided Socialist party behind his candidacy and keep a promise to slash unemployment, which hovers at around one in 10 of the workforce.
“In the months to come, my only duty will be to continue to lead my country,” he said.
The Socialist leader has some of the lowest approval ratings for a French president since World War II.
His term has been marked by U-turns on major policies, terror attacks, a sickly economy and embarrassing revelations about his private life.
A new poll on Nov. 30 predicted he would win just seven percent of votes in the first round of next year’s election - strengthening Socialist party critics who view him as a lame duck.
Voter surveys currently tip rightwing Republicans party candidate Francois Fillon to win the election, with the far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen seen as the closest challenger.
But the full range of candidates remains unknown and the role of independents such as 38-year-old ex-economy minister Emmanuel Macron are difficult to predict.
Hollande’s decision flings open the door to others vying to be the Socialists’ champion.
The party began accepting candidates on Dec. 1 for its primaries, due on Jan. 22 and 29 next year. The presidential elections are due on April 23, 2017 with a runoff on May 7, 2017.