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President Francois Hollande insisted on austerity for everything but his waistline

French president François Hollande.
AP Photo/Yoan Valat
While the French economy starves, François Hollande appears to have been feasting.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The first-year anniversary reviews for French president François Hollande could not be worse.

From right to left the Socialist is considered an abject failure, isolated in the Elysée Palace, lacking in authority, often absent from public view, and incapable of tackling the nation’s dire economic problems. Hollande’s poll ratings are disastrous with only 24% saying they have confidence in him.

What’s fueling the rage? A lousy economy, for sure, but also that Hollande seems unable to apply his austerity measures to his own lifestyle. Yesterday, France announced an end to the era of austerity, but the president faces a steep climb back to popularity.

Elle magazine editorialist Marion Ruggieri observed that the president’s “out of love handles” were perhaps a sign that “the electoral body having been conquered, the body of the head of state is now reassuming its rights.” And:

How can a president put the whole country on a diet, when he himself seems to be in the grip of a crazy illness in not being able to resist chocolate?

Before he arrived at the Elysée Palace pudgy Hollande was nicknamed “Flamby” after a popular processed custard dessert. Then he went on a major diet at the behest of his girlfriend, journalist Valérie Trierweiler. The goal was to be considered electable and it largely worked.

One year into office, the fat jokes and before and after shots are particularly cruel if one imagines the president has a problem with comfort food, stress-related overeating, or a lifetime of yo-yo dieting à la potential US presidential hopeful Chris Christie, the governor of New  Jersey.

But France does not have time for such American excuses. For one, comfort food does not exist as a concept. And, getting fat in France is never approved of, especially if you are supposed to embody the French nation and give it a sense of leadership. Consider that the French are getting fatter at much slower rates than Americans, Brits, Germans and us Aussies, for example.

If anything, as opinion pollster and political strategist Claude Posternak explained, the French were impressed when a once-chubby Hollande suddenly appeared as the hungry presidential candidate dramatically shorn of 15 kilos.

‘‘His loss of weight was seen as the manifestation of the willingness of the candidate to win,’’ Posternak says in an interview with Quartz. ‘‘The weight put back on is inevitably interpreted as the disappearance of this willingness and the absence of determination of the president in the face of unemployment and the crisis.”

As he’s packed on the pounds, the French have packed on the pessimism. A record 82% now believe that politicians get elected firstly to defend their own interests. Kilo by kilo, it’s like Hollande has abandoned his campaign promises.

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