Hollande's problems loom despite Mali gain

Feb. 1, 2013 at 3:57 PM   |   0 comments

PARIS, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- French President Francois Hollande earned almost universal acclaim when he dazzled the French and the international community with his lightning strike into Mali to crush Islamic militants but pressing domestic problems have crept back onto French national agenda.

Foremost is the future of jobs in a climate created single-handed by Hollande that is seen by analysts as confrontational, with little interaction with either French business or influential elite.

Hollande, who took over from Nicolas Sarkozy last May, has suffered a setback already with the constitutional court throwing out his proposals to tax the rich further.

High-profile embarrassments for the president included actor Gerard Depardieu's shunning of French citizenship for a Russian passport, a public humiliation orchestrated with ruthless panache by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In normal times, socialist Hollande will be hands in glove with the quasi-socialist Russian regime, but no one's is quite sure what Putin's politics are, so while the Russians celebrate the Depardieu coup Hollande is having to deal with high-profile tax rebels.

British Prime Minister David Cameron rubbed salt into wounds by announcing he would roll out the red carpets for any French tax exiles. News reports suggest a French diaspora in Britain is already swelling to unprecedented levels.

France's Mali campaign has had mostly positive feedback but skeptics warn early military success isn't a guarantee of a stable return to normalcy. The West African crisis is blamed on a spillover of insurgents from the fragmentation of late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's complex ruling machine, which included hired soldiers from neighboring African states.

Libyan security officials fear the French crackdown in Mali is forcing many heavily armed insurgents to try and filter back into Libya.

Hollande is visiting Mali Friday to visit areas "liberated" by French troops. French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Development Minister Pascal Canin are accompanying the president. But Hollande's visit is far from triumphalist, even as socialist media in France seem keen to depict it as such.

Although Hollande's approval ratings turned around after France sent troops to Mali, "French polls suggest the public only have patience for a limited operation: Eradicating the Islamist threat entirely is a bridge too far," the BBC said.

"The president's objective is to prepare to hand over the towns the French-led troops have captured to an African force that has begun to deploy to Mali and create enough stability to facilitate new elections by July."

Will that French aim be achieved? No one can tell. Meanwhile, Hollande is under pressure to recast a creditable taxation regime for France and implement hugely unpopular cutbacks in public spending.

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