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François Hollande seeks to restore voters' faith on primetime TV

French president, who is sliding in the polls, will hit back at claims that key election pledges are being watered down

The French president, François Hollande, will have 25 minutes on primetime television on Sunday evening to convince his nation that he will keep his election pledges and drag his country out of the economic mire.

The French leader hopes the interview will halt his slide in the polls, which suggest more than half of voters are dissatisfied with him.

Hollande is expected to talk about specific economic and social issues. He will also reassure voters that he will press ahead with controversial election pledges, including higher taxes for the rich. French newspapers suggest the president may also announce new taxes to bring in an extra €15bn (£12bn).

"The tone will be serious," a member of the presidential entourage told the Journal du Dimanche (JDD). "He has about a half an hour to convince the French there's a chief at the head of state who has a vision, a destination and a timescale for getting there."

Hollande's popularity has plummeted, with the majority of French people having lost faith in his election promises, according to a poll in le Parisien newspaper on Sunday. The president's rating has dropped 22 percentage points to 40% from a previous poll two weeks after he took up office on 16 May, it found. Dissatisfaction with his leadership has risen to 59%, the survey added.

Hollande sold himself to the French electorate as "Monsieur Normal", a contrast to the hyper-presidency of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy. En route to an official engagement a week ago, he ordered his chauffeur to stop at a petrol station so he could have a coffee and chat with lorry drivers to gauge the national mood. Now, however, his determination to appear ordinary has been interpreted as a symptom of chronic indecision and inaction.

Some have suggested the president needs to appear more pushy.

On Friday, the Socialist government insisted that key election pledges, including spending cuts and reforms that would see a 75%tax rate for anyone earning more than €1m a year, were not being watered down. The high tax rate was a "symbolic measure that people expect and that means a lot to the country", said a presidential aide.

Hollande will remind voters that his country's stagnant economy and the eurozone crisis make it vital for France to reduce its public deficit to 3% of gross domestic product next year or risk a loss of investors' trust and a possible credit rating downgrade.

"The French know that difficult decisions have to be made. They want to hear their president," the adviser said. "He is obliged to raise French people's concerns, which are real, and to say: 'Here is what I am doing, here is what is being done, here is where I am taking you.'"

Elysée advisers say the president hopes to dispel the impression that he is "immobile" in the face of the country's economic woes, but may not make any specific new policy statement. In the interview he will stress that he has only a "small spade" to dig the country out of its economic problem, they said.

"The French approve of what he is doing, but they are perplexed about where it's going, that's to say the direction and what it means, and it is this he will try to address," one of the president's team told the JDD.

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