French President Francois Hollande says he will decide whether to stand for 2017 election at end of year, defends his reforms
Beleaguered French President Francois Hollande vowed on Thursday that his highly contested reforms would produce results and said he would decide at the end of the year if he will stand for re-election in 2017.
Questioned by four members of the public on live TV, Hollande insisted he would pursue attempts to reform the labour market and said he wanted to be judged on his efforts to reduce stubbornly high unemployment, which has dogged his four years in office.
"I have undertaken policies which are producing results now and which will continue to produce results," he said.
"I ask to be judged on the issue of unemployment."
The jobless rate in France is around 10 percent and rising, while it is falling in other large European economies.
Opinion polls Thursday showed nearly 90 percent of voters take a negative view of Hollande's presidency.
Hours before Hollande spoke, young protesters demonstrating against the labour law reforms clashed with riot police in Paris and several other cities.
They were the latest in a series of protests against reforms which the government argues will free up the job market and create jobs, but critics say are weighed heavily in favour of employers and will erode job security.
Hollande rejected calls for the measures to be withdrawn but conceded that "corrections" would be made to the draft law in parliament.
Things are improving
Hollande's popularity ratings are among the lowest ever for a post-war French leader, but he insisted progress was being made.
"Things are better, there is more growth, there are fewer debts and fewer taxes. Competitivity is up.
"That is what I have done in the last four years and that is why I am going to pursue it to the end."
On the international front, he said France had played an "exemplary" role in efforts to end the five-year war in Syria.
"France has supported the Syrian opposition, it has fought DAESH, and France wanted to intervene when chemical weapons [were being used]," Hollande said.
Polls released Thursday made grim reading for Hollande.
One for BFMTV showed 87 percent of voters had an unfavourable opinion of his four years at the helm, and he did not fare much better among supporters of his own Socialist Party, with 69 percent backing that view.
Another poll, for the Le Parisien newspaper, showed 69 percent of people will not change their minds even if he manages to reduce the jobless total.
Three-quarters of respondents said they believe he should abandon hopes of standing for a second term "to allow the Left to find a better candidate."
The 2017 presidential race is impossible to call at this point because the main contenders are yet to be selected.