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France

Hollande: 7 things he did – and didn't do

media Outgoing French President Francois Hollande waves after a ceremony to mark the end of World War II at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, May 8, 2017. Reuters/Benoit Tessier

French President Francois Hollande chaired his final cabinet meeting Wednesday before handing over the reins to Emmanuel Macron, while the governing Socialist Party began to splinter.

Macron will be inaugurated on Sunday and the centrist's victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen is threatening to rapidly re-draw the French political map.

The bruising contest left the traditional parties on the sidelines, and Hollande's ruling Socialist Party is in disarray after the two-round election.

Dogged by France's stubbornly high unemployment throughout his presidency, Francois Hollande also faced an unprecedented wave of jihadist attacks, violent protests over labour reforms and public airing of his tangled private life during his time in office.

Here are some of the defining moments of the Socialist leader's mandate which began in 2012 :

1. Terrorism

A series of jihadist attacks has killed more than 230 people since January 2015, mostly the work of French radicals acting in the name of Islamic State (IS) or other extremist groups.

Hollande won praise for rallying a shocked nation after the first attacks in January 2015 on the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket.

Around 50 heads of state joined him on a march against terror that saw 3.7 million people take to the streets of France.

Ten months later, he reacted quickly when IS massacred 130 people in Paris at the Bataclan concert hall, at cafes and bars, and outside the national stadium.

Hollande announced a state of emergency, declaring that France was "at war" and deploying troops to patrol the streets.

But in July, when 86 people enjoying Bastille Day festivities in Nice were killed in a truck rampage, accusations mounted that Hollande's government was failing to tackle the extremist threat.

2. Private life

Before taking office Hollande took aim at the romantic antics of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy -- who married supermodel Carla Bruni while president -- vowing that on personal matters, he himself would be "exemplary".

But cracks began to show in Hollande's relationship with long-term partner Valerie Trierweiler, and the couple split after it emerged he was having an affair with Julie Gayet, an actress nearly 20 years his junior.

Trierweiler published a bestselling memoir that proved deeply embarrassing to Hollande, not least with its claim that the Socialist leader disdained the poor.

To make matters more complicated, Hollande has four children from an earlier relationship with Environment Minister Segolene Royal.

3. Labour protests

Hollande took power on a leftist platform -- including a top tax rate of 75 percent -- but later shifted towards business-friendly policies, notably trying to tackle France's famously rigid labour laws.

His government suffered months of violent protests in 2016 over reforms designed to make it easier to hire people but also easier to fire them, before finally managing to push through a watered-down version last summer.

Hollande's approval ratings sank to catastrophic lows, dragged down by disappointment over his management of the economy. Despite promises to create jobs, unemployment remains near 10 percent.

4. Foreign wars

Hollande launched a military operation in January 2013 to halt the advance of Islamists who had taken over swathes of northern Mali, a former French colony.

The following December, a second operation was launched in the Central African Republic -- another former colonial possession -- in a bid to restore stability to a country gripped by religious violence.

Jihadists remain active in Mali and a vast portion of the country remains out of government control, while violence also remains rife in CAR.

Hollande also sought to intervene in Syria in 2013, but backed out of air strikes when it became clear then US president Barack Obama did not intend to follow suit.

France began air strikes in Syria only in September 2015 as part of an international coalition targeting IS. French raids against IS in Iraq had begun in September 2014.

5. French nationality

After the Paris attacks, Hollande sought to modify the constitution to allow convicted terrorists to be stripped of their French nationality if they were dual nationals.

The issue sparked fierce debate over the ethics of such a move, with Justice Minister Christiane Taubira quitting in protest.

Hollande finally scrapped the idea. When announcing late last year that he would not seek re-election, Hollande flagged up the row as the one major regret of his presidency.

6. Global climate deal

Hollande campaigned hard for the historic climate agreement signed in Paris last December and hailed it as one of his key achievements.

7. Gay marriage

The Socialist leader had made "marriage for all" one of his election pledges, and same-sex marriages were signed into law in April 2013, despite angry protests by tens of thousands of social conservatives.

Hollande launched the rise of his successor, choosing Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker with no political experience, as an economic advisor. He then brought Macron into his Socialist government, promoting him to economy minister in 2014.

But Macron turned his back on Hollande, quitting the cabinet to build his own centrist political movement "En Marche" (On the Move), and eventually winning the presidential election.
 

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