Photographer: Yoan Valat/AFP via Getty Images

Hollande Faces Across the Board Criticism After Tell-All Book

  • Hollande took swipes at judges, soccer stars, Tsipras
  • Members of his own party question judgment ahead of elections

France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande has managed to unite his fractious country with a tell-all book that’s led even some of his closest allies to question his judgment.

The book, whose French title translates as “A President Shouldn’t Say That...,” was written by two Le Monde journalists based on about 100 hours of interviews with Hollande. In the book, the president takes swipes at judges, soccer players, a former girlfriend, and both fellow Socialists and opposition politicians.

The book, and the controversy it generated, comes weeks before Hollande must decide whether to run for a second term in next year’s presidential elections. Not a single poll has shown he’d win enough votes in the April 23 first round to qualify for the May 7 run-off.

According to an Ifop poll for Journal du Dimanche published Sunday, only 14 percent of the French want Hollande to seek another term. Opinion polls consistently show him as the least popular president since direct presidential elections were introduced in the 1960s.

‘Talkative President’

“I wonder just how far this talkative president will go to destroy the institution of the presidency,” former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running again, said in an interview on C8 television Sunday. “We see now what he is, a man who likes only himself.” Marine Le Pen, the anti-European Union candidate of the National Front, mocked Hollande on BFM Television Sunday for spending so much time talking to journalists and not running the country.

“A president shouldn’t make so many confessions,” Claude Bartolone, the Socialist president of the National Assembly, said in an interview Friday with newspaper La Provence. “The position requires a certain discretion.”

Prime Minister Manuel Valls didn’t directly criticize Hollande but told reporters Friday during a visit to Canada that “all these discussions, all these debates, are not good for our democracy or political life.” French media has been full of Socialist members of parliament, named and unnamed, criticizing Hollande for his confessions.

Hollande Friday wrote a letter to France’s national union of magistrates to say that he “deeply regretted” any offense from having said they belong to a “cowardly institution.” In other exchanges in the book, Hollande said France’s young soccer players need to “exercise their brains,” and that France has too much immigration and that “there is a problem with Islam,” which has not been the public position of his government. He said that Sarkozy is “cynical” and “obsessed with money.”

Officials in Hollande’s office have said the citations in the book must be considered in their precise context.

The book made waves as far away as Greece. Hollande told the reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin had told him Greek President Alexis Tsipras had asked if Russia could print drachmas, indicating Tsipras was prepared to take Greece out of the euro zone. Greek media have reported that officials close to Tsipras denied he ever made the request.

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