, Paris, Sept 18 – French President Francois Hollande holds a rare and hotly awaited news conference later Thursday as the embattled and deeply unpopular leader seeks to turn the tide on a catastrophic few weeks.
A party rebellion, an emergency cabinet reshuffle, record high unemployment and record low popularity: Hollande has endured punch after punch in the past month or so.
But perhaps the most painful blow was the revelations of a woman scorned, as his former partner Valerie Trierweiler painted him as a cold and power-crazed leader who secretly hates the poor in a best-selling kiss-and-tell.
However, Hollande does have some good news to cling onto after his government won a crucial vote of confidence in the parliament on Tuesday — albeit narrowly and with more rebel MPs than he would have liked.
Manuel Valls, the previously popular prime minister who has been dragged down in Hollande’s wake, described the vote as a “turning point” and the news conference is the next stage of that process.
Hollande will make a brief statement at 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) before taking reporters’ questions in a session that could last hours.
The subjects are likely to range from France’s engagement in Iraq to the dire state of the economy to the president’s love life — although he is unlikely to offer further enlightenment on this last topic.
Political analysts however were sceptical that Hollande could turn the corner.
“In the short term, I do not see what could make him rebound,” said Frederic Dabi from the polling company Ifop, as Hollande stagnates at a record low of 13 percent in the opinion polls.
“The dreadful sequence of events he has suffered show that it’s not a problem of political skill, economic skill but also personal skills. There is a doubt about the person himself. It’s difficult to rectify that,” added Pascal Perrineau from the Institute of Political Studies in Paris.