National politics

François Hollande wrote his name into history in May 2012 as the first Socialist to be elected president of France since 1988 (when the late François Mitterrand won a second term) and only the second in 65 years. Hollande’s victory paved the way for the Socialists’ sweep to power in a parliamentary election in June, breaking the centre-right’s hold over the fifth republic. The Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, France’s main centre-right party, promptly fell victim to vicious infighting from which it has yet to emerge.

Hollande’s next historic achievement was less welcome – a drop in his approval ratings to a record low of 35% by the end of the year. This could be as much a reflection of the difficult economic conditions, with flat growth and budget cuts, as of anything he did or failed to do. But the new president has appeared less sure-footed in office than in opposition. As opposition leader, his calm demeanour contrasted to his advantage with the mercurial Nicolas Sarkozy, the incumbent. In the office of president, calmness is easily perceived as indecision or complacency.

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