François Hollande’s Tartuffe Syndrome

LONDON – In his classic comedy “Tartuffe, or The Impostor,” Molière shows that allowing pride, rather than reason, to dictate one’s actions invariably ends badly. French President François Hollande appears to have an advanced case of Tartuffe’s malady, repeatedly making political pledges that he cannot honor, partly because of factors beyond his control – namely, the European Monetary Union (EMU) – but mostly because he lacks the determination.

For France, the consequences of Hollande’s failures will be much more dramatic than his political downfall. Indeed, the country could be facing catastrophe, as Hollande’s actions risk miring the economy into sustained stagnation and driving an increasingly angry French public to elect the far-right National Front party’s Marine Le Pen as his successor.

France’s economic policies are untenable, meaning that both of the main determinants of those policies, the EMU and Hollande’s approach, must change radically. So far, that does not seem to be happening.

Earlier this month, an opinion poll showed Hollande’s approval rating plummeting to 12% – the worst result for any French president in the history of modern polling. On the same day, Hollande gave a long televised interview in which he combined admissions of failure with new promises.