An analysis of our partner GFC Net: Shan


The current president of the French Republic, François Hollande announced on 1st December that he will not seek a re-election next year. It is the first time in the entire Fifth Republic history that a sitting president is not going to run for its own succession.

I am conscious of the risks that my candidacy would create for the Socialist majority. Therefore I have decided not to run for president

Mr. Hollande has been facing for months very low approval ratings  (with the famous 4% of positive opinions record), as he notably failed to significantly curb the employment rate in France, and he generated division in his own camp by suggesting the deprivation of nationality in the wake of the terror attacks that stroke France these last two years. He also conducted a controversial labour reform that triggered blockage and strikes during months.

In order to give a chance for the socialists to qualify for the second round of the next presidential election, he decided to gave up and to pave the way for his former Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, who resigned and announced his intention to run.
This unexpected move from Mr. Hollande added uncertainty to the already most uncertain presidential run-off than ever, with the far-right leader, Marine Le pen, expected to qualify for the second round. By stepping down, Hollande has probably avoided the humiliation of a huge defeat next year.
Overall, Hollande’s political renunciation is a further sign of deep political ongoing changes in France and in the western world. Both Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppé, two significant figures of the right in France for 30 years, have been defeated during the centre-right primary last month. Even if François Fillon has started his political life practically at the same time, he was never as much exposed as Sarkozy and Juppé were. By voting for him, the right voters expressed their will to be represented by someone “new”, who embodies conservative and liberal values. That scenario might be repeated next month with the left primary, where nobody seems to be favourite, and might lead to a surprise.
To manage the routine until the election, Hollande decided to appoint Bernard Cazeneuve as the Prime Minister. This latter has been interior minister since 2014. He is a Hollande loyalist and played a key role during the wave of terror attacks. He also replaced Jerôme Cahuzac as the budget minister, when Mr. Cahuzac was forced to step down following a tax scandal in 2013.

Both Hollande and Cazeneuve are willing to stop their political carreer at the end of this term.


The French left primaries has started with a lot of confusion after the unexpected decision of Mr. Hollande to give up on the presiential race. Many commentators believed this withdrawal would pave the way for Mr. Valls in the prospect of the next month’s nomination battle, but on 12 December, the former eductation minister, Vincent Peillon joined the battlefield and claimed the legacy of Hollande presidency. That created a lot of confusion amongst the supporters, whose a part is tempted by Emmanuel Macron on the right and Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the left.

The last polls predicted a heads-up between Arnaud Montebourg and Manuel Valls at the second round of these primaries, but this should be taken very carefully, considering the numerous mistakes made by the surveys institutes this year. Therefore, nobody knows precisely who are going to vote next month. Upset by the unfulfilled promises of François Hollande, they might prefer to designate a leftist candidate such as either Montebourg or Hamon. So far, Valls is viewed as the winner, with 51 per cent of the votes, a result within a pollster’s margin of error.

Valls has been increasingly criticized since he has launched his campaign. Many socialist personalities (Christiane Taubira, the former justice minister, and Martine Aubry, the mayor of Lille and daughter of former European Commission chairman Jacques Delors) blame him of having divided the left camp by promoting right wing values and proposals, such as supporting the deprivation of nationality, the end of the 35-hour working week, the ban of wearing a burkini or his pro-business views. He is likely to face a strong challenge from Arnaud Montebourg, a charismatic former economy minister, who is on the left of the Socialist party and presents himself as a “real left” Socialist candidate.

The truth is the battle for the socialist nomination has kicked off and it will be tough; not only because of the presidential election – which will be very hard for the left to win – but also due to the battle for further control of the socialist party, which is struggling with division, confusion and disenchantment.

Next steps:

  • 22 & 29 January 2017: socialist Primaries: first & second round
  • 23 April 2017: first round of the presidential election
  • 7 May 2017: second round of the presidential election