François Hollande (62), appeared in a live televised address, and announced he will not seek re-election in the upcoming Presidential election in May 2017. Hollande, one of the least popular heads of state in modern French history, said:
Today I am aware of the risks that going down a route that would not gather sufficient support would entail, so I have decided not to be a candidate in the presidential election.
Hollande has long struggled with low approval ratings, with a recent poll showing an abysmal 4% support. Taking into consideration his poor performance as President, France’s ongoing troubles with terrorism and immigration, Hollande’s decision not to seek re-election is no surprise.
A Swing to the Right
With an extremely unpopular Socialist President at the helm, France has experienced a series of bloody terrorist attacks, with an increasing number of French citizens doubting the government’s ability to protect the country from Islamic terrorism.
To make things worse for France, the country has been experiencing slow economic growth and high unemployment rates. The inability of the government to cope with terrorism, economic woes and immigration problems, plays into the hands of Marine Le Pen, the leader of Front National (FN), who is widely expected to qualify for the second round of the next Presidential election.
Le Pen has long been regarded as one of the main symbols of the rising European right, with her party obtaining a sweeping victory in 2014 European parliament election.
Although Le Pen has the most chance to win in the first round, most polls see her losing the run off to a mainstream right candidate. A good indicator were the 2015 regional elections, when Le Pen’s FN won the highest number of votes, but failed to win a single region, due to a strategic alliance between two mainstream parties, the Socialists and the Republicans.
The Rise of François Fillon
However, Le Pen may not be the only reason of concern for the ruling Socialists. The Republican primaries saw an unlikely candidate securing his bid for the Presidency, with a former Prime Minister, François Fillon, beating both Nicolas Sarkozy and Alan Juppe in a landslide.
Fillon, a conservative, is a proponent of Neoliberal reforms, but is also known for his opposition to liberal policies such as gay marriage. Undoubtedly a mainstream candidate himself, Fillon has much better chance to beat Marine Le Pen in May next year, as his mix of social conservatism and promise of economic reform offers a better alternative to the majority of voters fearful of Le Pen’s policies.
The Election that Could Change French Politics
With Le Pen and Fillon looking as the most likely candidates to enter the Elysee Palace next year, it is certain that France is heading towards a political shift. Le Pen’s victory would likely deal a fatal blow to the EU, completely redefining France’s position on the international stage. Yet, both Le Pen and Fillon are known for their friendly stance towards Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Fillon opposes EU sanctions imposed on Russia, and is one of European politicians in favor of seeking compromise with Russia.
The next French President will face significant challenges, but regardless of who wins next year, French politics will shift to the right.