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Happy (?) birthday Mr French President

After Angela Merkel, it is now the French president's turn to celebrate his 60th birthday.

But after months of media attention focusing more on his private life than on his policies, Hollande has chosen to celebrate at an undisclosed location in the south-east of France with his four children and his closest friends.

We take a look at his causes for celebration, and at what might prompt him to drown his sorrows.


Chesnot | Getty Images

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Congratulations Francois!

A lurch to the center-left

Although it is "extremely hard to find anything positive" to say about Francois Hollande's first two years in office, Nicholas Spiro, managing director at Spiro Sovereign Strategy told CNBC in a phone interview, the president has "at least recognized the urgency and the need for meaningful reforms. He has acknowledged the need for a significant shift from a tax-driven to a more expenditure-driven fiscal program", Spiro said.

At the beginning of the year, Hollande surprised commentators by taking a more liberal approach and introducing a "Responsibility Pact" aimed at cutting the country's high labor costs and boost unemployment.

For Fabrice Montagné, senior European economist at Barclays, the Pact is also a positive "because it led to a reduction in costs for businesses". Furthermore, the economist highlighted, the government's recent so-called "Simplification Shock" – which aims to abolish administrative red tape for business and deregulate some professions – "is just as promising".

A solid Premier

Following the party's rout in the March municipal elections, and with an eye to limiting the damage from the May European elections, the French president reshuffled his government.

While the move failed to prevent the Socialist Party's crushing defeat in regional elections, the appointment of Manuel Valls as Prime minister was a risky but ultimately "wise move", according to Spiro.

Although his appointment has alienated some of the Party's more left-wing members, the move was popular with the electorate.

Commiserations Mr President

The economy

Unfortunately for the president, the economy remains weak, unemployment continues to flirt with record highs and deficit targets look increasingly unattainable.

"The underlying priority for the government", said Spiro, "is to ensure that there is growth. Unfortunately right now, there is a conspicuous lack of growth in France and in the euro zone."

France saw no growth in the first quarter and a Reuters consensus forecasts second quarter GDP – out on Thursday – at 0.1 percent. Additionally, unemployment is still crippling the economy, coming in at 10.1 percent in the first quarter of this year.

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"The way the government handled the economic policy has clearly been inadequate", Montagné said, and continues to weigh on sentiment.

Furthermore, "the government's aim to modernize its administration and cut its spending was not reached", which Montagné explained, is a missed-opportunity.

"Contrary to Spain, France was not up against the wall, it had the time to put in place a cost reduction program that would not have weighed on growth too much, but it didn't".

"If you are Greek or Spanish, you know that the worst is behind you", concluded Montagné, "but if you are French or Italian, you know that the adjustments have yet to come".

A lack of popularity

"Francois Hollande's biggest problem is the Socialist Party", according to Montagné .

This is dramatic, he continued, because "the opposition doesn't even have to do its job". Hollande's more liberal approach may have been welcomed by investors, but it left members of his own party and key alliances reeling, which has dented his majority and weakened his ability to implement new reforms.

He "clearly doesn't have the country behind him", added Spiro, as he continues to struggle to convince the French electorate and Brussels that he is capable of implementing reforms.

According to a BVA survey released on July 12, his approval rating stands at 24 percent only, but more tellingly, the far-right National Front party has been making headways in the polls, winning both the municipal and European elections.

The rise of Marine Le Pen – the National Front leader- is a serious concern for the government because it constrains its ability to reform further, explained Spiro.

To add insult to injury, a recent IFOP survey, published on July 31, found that if the 2017 presidential elections were to take place now, the National Front leader would win the first round, knocking Hollande out of the race.

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