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Published: Thursday, 4/11/2013

Hollande’s troubles

Hollande Hollande

French citizens have turned furiously on President Francois Hollande, less than a year after they elected him to a five-year term with a solid legislative majority for his Socialist Party.

The president’s popularity rating stands at about 27 percent. French media and other commentators say they don’t know what he can do to regain public confidence. A shuffle of his cabinet would likely accomplish nothing.

Mr. Hollande’s government stands accused of hypocrisy. France, like the rest of the eurozone, suffers from recession. The president’s prescription for getting France out of spiraling debt includes spending cuts and tax increases.

French courts rejected the president’s proposal to raise the income-tax rate to 75 percent on people who earn more than $1.3 million a year. He has also pledged to crack down on tax cheats.

But as Mr. Hollande advanced these ideas, it was revealed that his former budget minister, Jerome Cahuzac, had secret bank accounts in Switzerland and Singapore. The president says Mr. Cahuzac lied about those accounts, to him and to lawmakers. Mr. Cahuzac is under indictment for tax fraud.

The co-treasurer of Mr. Hollande’s 2012 presidential campaign, Jean-Jacques Augier, was discovered to have money in two Cayman Island funds — not illegal per se, but clearly a form of tax evasion. Mr. Hollande says he doesn’t know anything about that either.

There is no obvious way out of France’s economic slump — or at least, none put forward by Mr. Hollande that is acceptable to his constituents. Two of the country’s major banks, BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole, have been helping rich clients move their money into offshore “fiscal heavens” — their term for tax havens.

Meanwhile, the overall eurozone unemployment rate stands at 12 percent, and France’s jobless rate is only a little less than that. Against that background, Mr. Hollande’s failed promise to “moralize political and economic life” in France continues to enrage the people of his nation.

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