- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
French President François Hollande’s approval rating is currently at 4 percent. Not 40. Not 14. No — four.
Here are some things that are currently more popular in France than François Hollande: Hillary Clinton; the opportunity to take a long, hard look at the direction of the European Union; and, according to this Sputnik article, Vladimir Putin.
Why? Well, according to the Economist, the new numbers came out after the publication of a book in which Hollande is quoted as insulting the judiciary, the poor, the national soccer team, and his own ministers. The book is called A President Shouldn’t Say That. Because clearly a president should not say any of those things.
The authors did not come across these remarks in the wild; Monsieur Hollande made them directly to the writers, with whom he met on 61 separate occasions over four years.
Imagine making a self-destructive mistake. Now imagine making that same mistake 60 more times. Very good. You have just imagined yourself as François Hollande. (Now scrounge up $11,000 for a haircut.)
At least Hollande timed this popularity plunge well. Yes, he’s being insulted by rival Nicolas Sarkozy. But can you imagine how unfortunate this would be if Hollande were about to face a presidential election that he cannot possibly win and in which the stakes are incredibly high, given terrorism and Islamophobia and the rise and reach of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen?
No need to imagine. He is about to do just that: His party’s primary is in January. Though opponents cannot announce their candidacy until December, there will likely be quite a few challengers. The primary — the first a sitting French president has had to face in 50 years — was announced in June because Hollande was so unpopular. And back then he had a plum 11 percent approval rating.
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