French pres­i­dent rules out 2017 run

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Thomas Adam­son and Sylvie Cor­bet

PARIS — French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande an­nounced Thurs­day that he would not seek a sec­ond term in next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, say­ing he hoped to give his So­cial­ist party a chance to win “against con­ser­vatism and, worse still, ex­trem­ism” by step­ping aside.

“I have de­cided not to be a can­di­date in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” Hol­lande said in a somber ad­dress on French tele­vi­sion that re­capped his achieve­ments since tak­ing of­fice in 2012.

The 62-year-old pres­i­dent — the coun­try’s least pop­u­lar leader since World War II — said he was “con­scious of the risks” his lack of sup­port posed to a suc­cess­ful can­di­dacy.

“What’s at stake is not a per­son, it’s the coun­try’s fu­ture,” he said.

The So­cial­ist party has been di­vided over Hol­lande’s lead­er­ship, with rebels within the party crit­i­ciz­ing his pro-busi­ness strat­egy and call­ing for more left-lean­ing poli­cies.

Two of his for­mer col­leagues, for­mer Econ­omy Min­is­ter Ar­naud Mon­te­bourg and for­mer Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Benoit Ha­mon, al­ready have an­nounced they would run in next month’s So­cial­ist pri­mary, along­side other low- pro­file can­di­dates.

Like other So­cial­ist con­tenders, Hol­lande faced a Dec. 15 dead­line for en­ter­ing the party’s pri­mary.

His an­nounce­ment came as a shock to po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors, many of whom had thought up un­til he con­firmed oth­er­wise Thurs­day that the one-term So­cial­ist leader was pos­tur­ing to seek re-elec­tion de­spite be­ing low in the polls.

French net­work TF1 only said late in the day that the em­bat­tled leader would be speak­ing on its pop­u­lar 8 p. m. news broad­casts, throw­ing French me­dia into a frenzy of sec­ondguess­ing what he might have to say.

For weeks, Hol­lande had kept pun­dits in the dark and dropped hints that he hoped to con­tinue in his job be­yond next year.

In a Septem­ber speech, he re­peat­edly sug­gested he was eye­ing a re-elec­tion bid.

“I will not let the im­age of France be spoiled in the com­ing months or the com­ing years,” Hol­lande said at the time.

Mem­bers of his en­tourage, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment spokesman Stephane Le Foll and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Michel Sapin, said in re­cent days that Hol­lande was in a le­git­i­mate po­si­tion to run again and to unite the left.

Hol­lande re­peat­edly had said he would seek re­elec­tion only if he were able to curb the un­em­ploy­ment rate in France, which for years has hov­ered around 10 per­cent. The lat­est fig­ures showed a slight de­crease in the job­less num­bers, but didn’t seem to quell the crit­i­cism.

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