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Eight million viewers watch Hollande defend mid-term presidential record

François Hollande faced four members of the public during the broadcast on the TF1 channel
François Hollande faced four members of the public during the broadcast on the TF1 channel AFP/Martin Bureau

François Hollande will not stand for French president again if unemployment has not fallen by the end of his term in office. Hollande made the pledge in a TV appearance, watched by nearly eight million people on Thursday evening, that received a cool reception in the press and on social media.

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“If I haven’t managed to do it [reduce unemployment] by the end of my term, do you think I’ll face the French?” he asked the panel of journalists and four members of the public in the 90-minute broadcast. “The French people would be implacable and they would be right.”

Despite hitting the lowest-ever recorded standing in opinion polls at 12 per cent, Hollande managed to attract 7.9 million viewers - 30 per cent of the evening’s audience – for a much-heralded live broadcast in which he defended his record half way through his term in office.

In similar mid-term broadcasts, Nicolas Sarkozy attracted 8.6 million viewers in 2010 and Jacques Chirac 7.4 million in 2005.

He promised an unemployed woman that he would boost measures to help older jobseekers find work, announced that France will bid to host the 2025 Universal Exposition, said there would be two inquiries into the death of protester Rémi Fraisse and pledged that there would be no new taxes between 2015 and 2017.

He also took exception to some apparently superficial criticisms of his presidential style, “because my tie is not straight? Because I eat chips?”

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The French press gave the broadcast poor reviews, while critics rushed to Twitter and other social media to mock the president’s performance.

Political reactions followed predictable lines, former prime minister François Fillon finding Hollande more like a worker in a job centre or a local councillor than a president and fellow right-wing MP Luc Chatel declaring himself by an “admission of impotence”.

Florian Philippot of the far-right Front National complained of a “void” with no concrete proposals, while Eric Coquerel of the hard-left Left Front dubbed the performance a “shipwreck broadcast live”.

Government spokesperson Stéphane Le Foll defended the president against charges that he had announced no new policies.

“If we want to succeed, we shouldn’t zigzag every week according to the dates in the diary, whether they’re with television or radio,” he said on Friday.
 

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