French President Francois Hollande announced Thursday he will not be running for reelection, capping an overwhelming political collapse since being elected five years ago.
Hollande, a member of the Socialist Party, is the most unpopular president France has had since World War II. Even in 2013, just a year after taking power, his approval ratings dropped to below 30 percent. By 2016, public disapproval with his performance approached a staggering 90 percent. Hollande was weighed down by a stagnant economy and repeated Islamic terror attacks. Hollande’s tenure was also marked by a 75 percent income tax on incomes over one million euros, which he was forced to repeal after just two years.
Foreseeing likely annihilation in next April’s presidential election, Hollande announced in a televised address Thursday night he will be stepping down after a single term. In the address, Hollande said he was “aware of the risks” that his candidacy would not be able to rally much of the public behind it, and had consequently decided to drop out.
Hollande’s unpopularity has paved the way for what will likely be a sharp lurch to the right in French politics. Among the two candidates currently topping the 2017 polls, one is Marine Le Pen, head of the anti-immigration Euroskeptic National Front party.
The other top candidates is Francois Fillon, who represents the conservative wing of the center-right Republicans party. Fillon is a political dark horse, who surged unexpectedly in the last weeks of the Republican primary to overtake the substantially more moderate Alain Juppe. Fillon is a social conservative, Islam critic and admirer of the late Margaret Thatcher. He has pledged to eliminate 500,000 public-sector jobs if elected president. (RELATED: Is Francois Fillon France’s Reagan?)
By stepping aside, though, Hollande has improved his party’s chances of maintaining power, as a the party will be able to put up a more viable candidate. The Socialists will hold a party primary of their own in January. Favorites include anti-austerity campaigner Arnaud Montebourg (who has already announced his candidacy) and incumbent Prime Minister Manuel Valls (whose path is opened by Hollande’s announcement).
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