President Francois Hollande has decided not to run in upcoming presidential elections in April 2017, clearing the Socialist field for a candidate with a little more pull with the French electorate. Finding one won’t be difficult given Hollande’s world-beating unfavorable ratings. In May of this year, Hollande broke the record for least popular president in the Fifth Republic’s history. His ratings have since dipped to as low as 4%.
Hollande’s stepping down could be consequential in both French domestic politics and the wider mood throughout the EU. It’s most immediate impact will be to provide a boost to those wanting to see Marine Le Pen locked out of executive power. But there’s still a long way to go, and a lot can change in five months.
The Socialist Party field opens up. There will be a primary in January to determine the Socialist Party candidate in the upcoming elections. Hollande’s decision to step down essentially affords the Socialists a shred of hope against the Republicans’ candidate Francois Fillon. Hollande himself came to be tainted by one of the biggest about-faces in modern French politics. Back in 2012, he ran on a pro-labor platform calling for large tax hikes for the highest earners in French society. Fiscal pressures (mostly in the form of bringing France in compliance with the EU Growth and Stability Pact) caused Hollande to turn away from his promises midway through his term, and push through a labor reform package that triggered a wave of protests across the country.