Francois Hollande

Francois Hollande

The emergency address made by President Francois Hollande on French television last night could certainly be a good political move to calm down his political rivals. The reason for this last minute emergency address was due to the revelations of his affair with Julie Gayet. He wanted to avoid any more embarrassing revelations getting out. He claimed that he and his partner Valerie Trierweiler are having difficulties.

Are the French people really interested in this affair? The majority questioned are not. However, what Hollande should be concerned about is the fact that the French public are not happy with how they see the country being run. According to the national newspaper Le Monde, they found two thirds of voters do not trust their president. They believe that the population’s depression is getting worse, and that more and more voters are leaning towards far-right groups.

There are several reasons why, the main one is due to the economic crisis. France’s economic downturn has deepened. This has caused many ill feelings and a lot more depression. Many voters are being wooed by anti-immigrant ideas.

Meanwhile with regards to whether or not the French trust their President is another kettle and fish. The French newspaper Le Monde recently reported, “In just 27 months the number of people who mistrust President François Hollande jumped from 33 percent in October 2011 to 67 percent by December 2013.” It’s worth noting the study was carried out in November and December 2013, well before the news of Hollande’s alleged affair with an actress hit the headlines. The researchers from Opinion Way gathered their data from 1,800 French voters, who are dealing with the country’s highest unemployment rate in 16 years.

Over a slightly longer period, from 2009 to 2013, voters have increasingly hardened their opinions towards the country’s foreign-born population. In December 2013, the study found, 67 percent of French people felt the country had too many immigrants. The number who believed that in 2009 was 49 percent.

This change signals a further political drift among many French voters towards the ideas promoted by the National Front, a racist that has attempted to soften its hard line message in recent years in an effort to broaden its appeal.

If the study suggests the French have become more wary of outsiders, it also reveals they have become less trusting of each other. The study found people increasingly—75 percent believe “you can’t be too careful when dealing with others”. The French aren’t in a very forgiving mood either, with support sharply increasing for the death penalty.

Although capital punishment has been outlawed in France since 1981, the study showed 50 percent of voters in December 2013 favoured bringing it back. In 2009, only 32 percent of voters supported a return to capital punishment.

This suspicion manifests itself in a general distrust of political institutions, with local town councils winning the least amount of trust from the survey subjects. About 62 percent of voters said they had no confidence in their local leaders. Generally speaking, 25 percent of people don’t trust “the government”.

The general malaise and depression reported by the study is a general trend in France that appears to solidify with time. The latest results show the words sullenness, weariness and mistrust each described the state of mind for over 30 percent of voters.

A professor at the prestigious Sciences Po University, Pascal Perrineau, said previous studies appeared to “show the levels wouldn’t go any higher”.

“But that’s not that case,” he told Le Monde, “It’s a collective depression.”

The causes for this depression are rather simple, the increase in taxes, the introduction of new taxes and factories as well as other companies closing. The French people who work are already paying too much. They have had enough. Many are unable to afford to pay their electricity and water bills. Some have to choose between paying a bill and not eating, particularly single people on a very low salary. So there is no surprise here why the French people are very angry and mistrustful.

The present outlook is not good news for President Hollande and his socialist party. This year, France will return to the polls again for the town council elections. The results will be rather interesting to see, as to whether this study will in fact come to fruition. If this is the case, then surely there will be a lot of tension in the up and coming months of President Hollande’s reign over France.

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