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François Hollande: “It’s Up to Me to Shape a New Concept of the Presidency”

Translated Monday 10 September 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

In a Le Monde interview published on Sept. 8 a few hours before his televised appearance, which is being eagerly awaited by increasingly worried French people, François Hollande favored “consistency” in presidential action, a much different approach from the “maximum reactivity” of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. Hollande was to speak, on the TF1 network on the evening of Sept. 9, on the unprecedented effort to reduce the government deficit in 2013 by “15 to 20 billion euros” through higher taxes, according to a source interviewed by the Journal du Dimanche.

“In this period, marked by rising prices, planned redundancy schemes and rising unemployment, the chronology of the French people does not correspond to that of government action,” declared the French president, who is confronted with difficult opinion polls and economic indicators that are flashing red. “Lack of focus is the risk facing presidential declarations – one day the environment, the next day unemployment, the day after, education. Presidential discourse must not appear to be fragmented,” he continued.

For the head of state, Nicolas Sarkozy “made maximum reactivity customary, anchoring it in the idea that ‘I speak, therefore I govern,’ and ‘I announce, therefore I decide.’ I’ve got to go back over all that and get the French people used, once more, to the fact that they have an authentic prime minister, after all these years when François Fillon adopted the posture of always being on the sidelines. I’ve got to get them used, once more, to the fact that Parliament is consulted and the Cabinet is put to good use.”

“If I’m distant, they say ‘He’s haughty.’ If I’m reactive, they say ‘He’s behaving like Sarkozy.’ If I favor compromise, they say ‘He’s hesitant.’ And when I’m abroad, they say ‘But he isn’t taking care of the people at home!’ I don’t want to be like a cork in midstream – changing, passing from one state to another. Consistency is needed. A style [of government] is established over a period of time,” François Hollande also said.

Going back further in the past and referring to Mitterrand’s seven-year term as president, François Hollande spoke of “a sparse and haughty presidency,” and added that nowadays “those are by-gone days.” “The French president’s term in office no longer lasts seven years, but we don’t really know yet what the five-year term means – Jacques Chirac’s was abnormal, given the circumstances in which he was re-elected [in the run-off elections Chirac faced Jean-Marie Le Pen of the far-right National Front party], and Sarkozy’s was excessive, given the way he exercised power. When you come down to it, it’s up to me to shape a new concept of the French presidency,” he said.

François Hollande, whose last televised interview dates back to July 14, will be questioned on Sept. 9 for 20 minutes by journalist Claire Chazal during the 8 o’clock news program on the TF1 network.

The unprecedented effort to reduce the government budget deficit in 2013, which will be at the heart of President François Hollande’s television appearance on TF1 on Sept. 9, will lead to “15 to 20 billion euros” in additional taxes, according to le Journal du dimanche, quoting an anonymous source. This will represent the bulk of the measures in the 2013 budget bill aimed at bringing the government budget deficit down to 3% of GDP by the end of 2013, a goal that Hollande has committed himself to accomplishing, the Journal du dimanche emphasized, which also pointed out that the executive branch is betting on an economic growth forecast for 2013 “of 1% at most.” In addition to the tax hike, there will be 10 billion euros in savings from government budget cuts, 2.5 billion euros in savings from social security cuts, and five billion euros from measures taken in the summer of 2012, such as the taxing of overtime hours.

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