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Hollande marks unhappy anniversary with investment pledge

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Beleaguered French President Francois Hollande marked the first anniversary of his election win with a promise to launch a major investment programme that will transform the country.

Under fire from right and left, Hollande outlined what amounts to a comeback strategy constructed around a ten-year programme of investment in digital and other new technolgies, alternative energy, health and infrastructure.

"We have achieved a lot in a year, but there remains a considerable amount to do," Hollande told his ministers, asserting that "the coming year will be a year of results."

"The reforms undertaken will change the face of France - profoundly."

Hollande marked the anniversary of his May 6, 2012 win over right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy as the most unpopular president in modern French history.

The Socialist leader has paid a heavy political price for his failure to revive a flagging economy and prevent unemployment rising to a 16-year high.

Newspapers marked Monday's anniversary with harsh criticism, with even the left-wing daily Liberation's front-page headline depicting the president as "A Man Alone".

"A year after the election of Francois Hollande, France is in crisis -- political, economic, social and moral," Liberation wrote, saying Hollande "has not been able, for the moment, to win the confidence of his countrymen."

Right-wing daily Le Figaro said: "The Socialist Party is in hiding for the first anniversary".

With criticism of the government mounting, some are predicting a cabinet reshuffle before the summer. Polls suggest voters would support the widening of the government to include some prominent centrist figures.

But that is unlikely to go down well with the left, both inside and outside of the Socialist Party.

Tens of thousands of left-wing protesters took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to accuse Hollande of turning his back on Socialist principles, while thousands more demonstrated across the country against a government bill legalising gay marriage.

Hollande's opponents rounded on him again on Monday, with the head of the right-wing UMP's parliamentary faction, Christian Jacob, telling France Info radio: "Simply put, right now the boat is sinking and we have a president who is incapable of taking action."

Since his election, Hollande's approval rating has fallen faster and further than any other president's since the founding of France's Fifth Republic in 1958.

His popularity has been especially dented by two recent crises -- a tax-fraud scandal involving his ex-budget minister Jerome Cahuzac and the deeply divisive debate on gay marriage.

A new TNS Sofres poll for i-Tele released Monday showed more than 76 of respondents saying they were disappointed with Hollande's performance and 56 percent of those who voted for him considering his record negative.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130506/hollande-marks-unhappy-anniversary-investment-pledge