Hollande says he will not seek 2nd term as French president

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — French President Francois Hollande said that he will not seek another term, clearing the path for a presidential bid by his pro-Israel prime minister Manuel Valls.

Hollande, whom polls give a single-digit approval rating, made the shock statement on Thursday during a televised speech. He is the first president to throw in the towel in at least five decades.

“I am aware today of the risk that going down a route that would not gather sufficient support would entail, so I have decided not to be a candidate in the presidential election,” Hollande said in a the address from the Elysee Palace.

Valls, who is seen as a hardliner on law and order issues within his left-wing Socialist party, has said in recent week that he is “ready” to run for president but he has not yet announced a candidacy to represent the Socialists in the election, whose second and final round is scheduled for May 7.

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He is nonetheless seen as a favorite to become the presidential candidate, according to Le Figaro.

Valls, who is married to a Jewish woman, is the first French prime minister who publicly denounced anti-Semitism as a form of or portal to anti-Semitism. His strong statements in favor of Israel and French Jewry have allowed him to consolidate considerable popularity and support among members of France’s Jewish community.

He received a hero’s welcome on January 11, 2015 when he was among the few politicians who showed up that night at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in eastern Paris, along with thousands of French Jews who had gathered there hours after a jihadist gunned down four shoppers inside the shop.

Valls has explicitly linked his pro-Jewish views to his Jewish wife, the violinist Anne Gravoin, saying in 2011 that his marriage connected him “in an eternal way” to Israel and the Jewish people.

If Valls is nominated as the Socialist presidential candidate, he will run against Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front party and Francois Pillon of the Republicans.

In an interview earlier this week, Michel Zerbib, news director at Radio J, the French Jewish station, said that whereas Fillon’s tough stance on Islam may appeal to many Jewish voters who feel threatened by Muslim extremists, “if Valls runs he could change all that because of the considerable popularity he enjoys” among French Jews.