April 18, 2016 / 12:42 PM / 2 years ago

French Left risks being 'atomized' as Hollande ratings drop

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande would lose election next year no matter who his opponents were, a poll showed on Monday, with poor ratings prompting his socialist party’s top official to warn that the French left risks being annihilated.

French President Francois Hollande attends a joint news conference with Lebanon's Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the government palace in downtown Beirut, Lebanon April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Hollande, who took office in 2012, told voters in a primetime TV show last week that his policies were paying off and things were getting better. He said he would decide at year-end whether to run again for a second term in next year’s presidential election.

But polls published on Monday and over the weekend showed voters were not convinced and his already faltering re-election prospects were looking even worse.

A TNS Sofres One Point poll showed the far-right National Front and the center-right Les Republicains would get the only two spots available in the election’s second round, even if Les Republicains put up a little-known candidate.

When tested against Les Republicains’s front-runner, former prime minister Alain Juppe, or against ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, Hollande’s predicted score in the first round was 5 to 7 points lower than in a similar poll in December.

To make things worse, the poll showed that candidates from smaller parties, further left, would get more votes all together than Hollande.

“If the Left does not get its acts together it will be atomized and marginalized for 20 years,” Socialist Party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis told LCI television.

The 61-year-old Hollande has been dogged by poor popularity ratings since soon after his election because of his failure to deliver on a promise to bring down unemployment.

His ratings slumped further over labor reform plans and botched anti-terrorism laws, both of which angered left-wing voters.

According to the TNS Sofres One Point poll, Hollande would only get 14 to 16 percent of the vote in the first round, only one to two points ahead of leftist firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon in most cases and even behind him in one scenario. The Greens would get 4 to 5 percent and far-left candidates about the same.

For Cambadelis, this shows French left-wing parties should agree on one single candidate and rally behind Hollande, whom he said “is the only one who can gather the Left and win.”

But Hollande might not even be able to play that card of the “useful vote” anymore, said TNS Sofres pollsters’ Emmanuel Riviere, referring to a common practice where the candidate of a mainstream party will seek to secure the support of those tempted by smaller ones with little or no chance of success by trying to convince them that the vote would be wasted.

“People think if it’s over for the Left anyway (in 2017) let’s vote for who we like rather than do a ‘useful vote,’ let’s vote for the right-wing candidate we prefer or for a left-wing candidate they consider truly represents left-wing values,” Riviere said.

Another survey published on Sunday by Ifop pollsters showed that only 14 percent of voters have a positive opinion of Hollande, by far the worst rating for a French leader 12 months ahead of a presidential election.

Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Additional reporting by Julie Carriat; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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