French president rules out 2017 run
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.