#СhapkaGate: Twitter in giggles over Hollande wearing Kazakh national costume

#СhapkaGate: Twitter in giggles over Hollande wearing Kazakh national costume
A pic of Francois Hollande wearing a traditional Kazakh hat and coat has gone viral on the social media. Twitter users mocked the French leader, saying he resembles Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat,” and producing a meme depicting Hollande in various outfits.

The photo of Hollande and his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was taken during their official meeting in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on Friday. It was later published on the official Instagram account of the Kazakh press service, but soon deleted at the request of the Elysee Palace.

However, several hours on Friday evening and the wee hours of Saturday morning were enough for social media users, who threw a torrent of mockery toward France’s president, saying that he looked ridiculous and calling him “Mister Chapka,” referring to the Russian word for hat.

"Has the president finally admitted that he is the leader of the communist republic of France?" asked Twitter user @HdmilesD.

#Chapka and #MisterChapka2015 hashtags immediately emerged on social media, sparking a flurry of online jokes.

They were later followed by #MissFrance2015 hashtag with pictures of Hollande wearing an evening dress and a title, saying he was the winner of the national beauty contest.

Some social media users wisecracked that Hollande bore a close resemblance to Borat, a satirical fictional character invented and performed by English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Borat, a Kazakh journalist, mocks US society by provoking discriminatory and ill-informed reactions to his caricature.

But the reaction of social media wasn’t restricted to comparing Hollande with Borat or depicting him as Miss France 2015.

The French leader also appeared in Internet memes as Santa Claus, Obelix and even a bleached-faced geisha.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended Hollande.

"From the outside, France is viewed sometimes with envy, and in any case with respect," Valls told AFP. "Everyone must realize that the president of the republic leads a great country and that great country, and its head of state also, must be respected by all."

Hollande’s approval ratings in France have fallen to a record low in recent months. According to a poll in September, only 13 percent of French people said they were satisfied with Hollande’s performance as president.