Mixed reviews for Hollande after first 100 days | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 14.08.2012
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Mixed reviews for Hollande after first 100 days

In his first 100 days in office, French President Francois Hollande began to fulfill his campaign promises. Still, his cautious approach has some commentators missing the days of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.

For years, people in France were used to a president known as "Hyper-Sarko," the derisive nickname for Nicolas Sarkozy. He will be remembered above all for his frenetic style. It's no wonder that these days, incumbent French President Francois Hollande is mainly being compared by the standards of Sarkozy's active comportment - and the comparison does not seem to be flattering.

On day 100 of Hollande's term, 54 percent of French people report they are unhappy with him. That's according to a survey by French newspaper "Le Figaro." Other publications depict Hollande as hesitant in a time of crisis when France needs strong leadership.

Under pressure

"Hollande's style is definitely a new experience for the French," said Dominik Grillmayer of the German-French Institute in Ludwigsburg, Germany told DW. "But they chased Nicholas Sarkozy out of office to get this experience. I think they'd had enough of the 'hyper-president' and his active style."

"They consciously chose someone who embodied a different style," Grillmayer concluded.

Claire Demesmay of the German Society for Foreign Policy has a different take on Hollande's emergence.

"Hollande knows how divided society is," she said. "He doesn't want to offend the French. He wants to tackle problems cautiously.

On the other hand, Demesmay said, Hollande's hesitant approach might be due to a simple lack of courage, though no one can say for sure.

At any rate, Hollande seems to have adopted a quiet path. In August, French public life always slows to a halt. But Grillmayer said when "hot autumn" begins, Hollande has to lead his country much more assertively than he has until now.

"That is the expectation of French people - that the French president be present, that he formulate projects," Grillmayer said. "He has to respond to the pressure."

Campaign promises fulfilled

Important structural reforms are on the table for the fall. Many experts agree France has to become more competitive and get its deficit under control. They also say French unemployment, at 10 percent, is too high.

Nicolas Sarkozy (EPA/STEPHANE REIX)

Sarkozy kept quiet during Hollande's first 100 days

"No one knows the answers to these problems yet," said Demesmay.

After just about 100 days of self-imposed silence, Sarkozy appears to be back on the public stage as a spokesman for France's conservative opposition. In Syria, he has found a topic to attack the socialist Hollande with. The reproach goes, Hollande has been too hesitant.

Grillmayer said even if Hollande has not been fast enough, he has not been inactive, either.

"He has begun to work on his campaign promises systematically," Grillmayer said.

As Hollande promised, some French workers can again retire at age 60. Another promise he is fulfilling is the withdrawal of French armed forces from Afghanistan later this year. And the president and his ministers have taken a salary cut - a symbolic act for a head of state who wants to make social justice the focus of his term.

French-German ties crucial

Observers are also closely following how Hollande's relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel develops. Germany and France are the most powerful countries within the European Union. Whether they are united is especially important in times of crisis. However, during this year's French presidential campaign, Merkel left no doubts that she preferred Sarkozy to Hollande.

French President Francois Hollande (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (EPA/JACKY NAEGELEN)

Merkel and Hollande said they would do everything to safeguard the euro. They are pictured at a July ceremony commemorating French-German ties

"Merkel's start with Hollande was definitely bumpy," Grillmayer said. "But I am of the opinion they will gradually come to a mutual understanding. With pragmatists like Merkel and Hollande, you can be sure they will find solutions."

But observers think Hollande's real test is yet to come. "It has never been so urgent to give meaning to the collective efforts demanded of all the French people," French newspaper "Liberation" wrote.

"Le Monde" wrote that after Sarkozy's hectic presidency, it welcomes a more moderate approach - just so long as it's not too moderate.

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