Francois Hollande announced on Thursday that he will not be running for a second term in next year’s elections, becoming the first president in France’s modern history not to seek reelection.
"I've decided not to be a candidate to renew my mandate," Hollande said in a televised address to the nation.
Hollande’s approval rating had dropped to a historic low of 4 percent, making him the least popular French president since the Second World War. In early polling for next April’s election, the Socialist Party representative was at just 9 percent of the vote, trailing by some distance the only other two confirmed leading candidates, Francois Fillon, who on Sunday won the French Republican presidential primary, and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front.
Hollande’s four-year presidency has been dogged by criticism from the outset over his lack of clarity over the economy and planned tax rises. The 62-year-old has been unable to arrest a slumping economy that has ground to a halt. Meanwhile, he has been criticized for failing to protect citizens in the wake of a string of terrorist attacks that have hit the country over the past two years. Islamic militants have killed more than 230 people in France since January 2015.
In his address, Hollande said he was aware of the risks of not running for reelection and warned against turning to Le Pen. The rise of the National Front leader has been compared to other populist uprisings across the globe, including Donald Trump's election victory in the United States and the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom.
However, latest polls suggest that Le Pen would likely be beaten in the first round of voting by Fillon, the former prime minister who surprisingly beat out former president Nicolas Sarkozy in the Republican primary.
With Hollande dropping out, Le Pen and Fillon are expected to be joined in next year’s election by Manuel Valls. The current prime minister is the early favorite to take over from Hollande as the Socialist candidate.