Paris - Under fire from right and left, French President
Hollande on Monday, spent the first anniversary of his election triumph
hunkered down with ministers to thrash out a comeback strategy.
Hollande, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and most of
the embattled Socialist government's ministers, held talks at the Elysee Palace
to set the administration's reform agenda for the coming months.
Hollande is marking the anniversary of his 6 May win last
year over right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy, as the most unpopular president in
modern French history.
Many in France are angered by his government's failure to
turn around the economy, which is predicted to enter recession this year, and a
rise in unemployment to a 16-year high.
Monday's talks were to focus on boosting economic growth,
fighting joblessness, controlling public finances and social issues like access
to housing, health care and retirement, officials said.
French newspapers marked the anniversary with harsh
criticism of Hollande, with even the left-wing daily Liberation's front-page
headline depicting the president as "A Man Alone".
"A year after the election of François
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."
Noting that no political events were planned to mark the
day, 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.
In an interview late on Sunday, Ayrault admitted the
government had made mistakes in its first year.
"Sometimes there are hiccups, but what is essential
for the French is the government's direction," he told TF1 television,
adding that government policies would lead to a "return to growth".
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 Jérôme
Cahuzac and a deeply divisive debate on gay marriage that saw widespread protests.
A new TNS Sofres poll for i-Tele released on Monday
showed more than 76 of respondents saying they were disappointed with
Hollande's performance, and 56% of those who voted for him considering his