PARIS – Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said that a week is a very long time in politics. If that is true, France’s 2017 presidential election is an eternity away, and any speculation at this point is premature, even imprudent. Nonetheless, some interesting preliminary developments merit consideration – specifically those concerning perceptions of President François Hollande and his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, neither of whom would be likely to win an election today.
The French electorate’s disapproval is among the only things that Hollande and Sarkozy – two men with strikingly different personalities and approaches – have in common. In fact, Hollande was elected in 2012 precisely because he presented himself as the “anti-Sarkozy.”
Today, a significant majority of French voters cannot stomach the prospect of seeing either leader on their television screens for five more years (the duration of a French presidential mandate). Both Hollande and Sarkozy have been relegated to the category of “unwanted incumbent.”
Some might blame France’s rejection of Hollande and Sarkozy on the challenges facing Europe today. Given rampant distrust of politicians and widespread frustration with the state of the economy, it would be difficult for any leader – except perhaps in Germany – to campaign successfully for reelection.