French leader’s charm not enough in dismal economy

DIJON, France — President Francois Hollande of France dived into the heart of Burgundy and turned on his self-effacing charm in an effort to win back support from voters deeply disappointed in him.

It did not really work.

Sending troops this year to the West African nation of Mali gave Hollande a temporary boost in popularity — but record-high and still-growing unemployment matters more, as he found this week on a trip to reconnect with the electorate.


Some polls indicate Hollande has the worst approval ratings of any French president since 1981, with less than a third saying they trust him to solve the country’s problems. France’s unemployment rate reached 10.6 percent in the latest quarter of 2012, highest in 13 years, and youth unemployment is more than 25 percent.

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In Dijon, a bastion of his ­Socialist Party, Hollande spent hours saying hello to residents and Socialist sympathizers, as if a smile and kind gaze was the best answer he could give.

When he arrived in a poor neighborhood, suffering from 30 percent unemployment, Hollande could not ignore the disappointment of a part of the population. ‘‘And the promises? Where [are the] promises, where are they?’’ shouted a man in the crowd, referring to Hollande’s campaign pledges last year to stimulate the economy.