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Hollande's victory music out of tune on French election anniversary

Hollande's victory music out of tune on French election anniversary
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When François Hollande was elected French president exactly one year ago, accordionists accompanied him on stage as he celebrated victory.

Twelve months on, the music has gone somewhat out of tune.

The socialist leader has suffered the sharpest fall in popularity of any French president in more than half a century.

He beat Nicolas Sarkozy by attracting support across the political left and still argues against more austerity.

But street protests on Sunday by the Left Front coalition highlighted disillusionment among those who had expected more radical policies along the lines of his promise to tax the rich more:

“He made lots of promises and then didn’t respect any apart from ‘marriage for everyone’, that’s good but there are many other things, so we feel betrayed,” said one demonstrator, 49-year-old Fabrice Duée from Valenciennes.

The right also demonstrated on Sunday, against same-sex marriage but also the other policies of Hollande’s government.

It has promised spending cuts and other market-friendly reforms, but for these protesters they do not go far enough.

“In particular he decided to raise taxes a lot and he’s made no savings on the state’s budget, on all public spending. So I think that’s really the main problem, the big mistake,” said Vincent Delongueville from the Paris suburb of Ville-d’Avray.

Hollande’s task is made harder by unemployment which has risen above 10 percent and an economy on the verge of recession.

“All heads of state and all heads of government in Europe are facing the same problems. That being said, there have been problems with his style, his perceived inability, but more than that, his inability to bring together all of the diverse elements of his government,” commented Steven R. Ekovich, Associate Professor of Political Science and History at the American University of Paris.

The French government has hailed as a victory the EU Commission’s decision to give France two more years to bring its budget deficit under control.

That is unlikely to appease domestic critics on the right or left.

Hard-left leader and former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon was dismissive.

“It’s not two years of respite the European Commission is giving us but two years of blackmail,” he said.