Sarkozy, fini

Five years ago he assured everyone, “I’ve changed.” This turned out to be optimistic

by Paul Wells

Thibault Camus/AP Photo

Well, so much for that guy.

During his five years in Elysée Palace, Nicolas Sarkozy came up with one plan after another that had nothing to do with his election promises or with France’s most pressing problems. His economic reforms were amazingly consistent: they made every problem worse. He had one advisor who took care to ensure he never made sense on economics, and another who used to write fan notes about Jean-Marie Le Pen. He rigged a public appointment for his son and took a vacation on a billionaire’s yacht. When he was nominated as his party’s candidate five years ago he assured everyone, “I’ve changed.” This turned out to be optimistic.

Sarkozy is essentially a silly man and France is well rid of him. François Hollande, the new president-elect, is no providential talent. He’s loaded up the agenda for his first year in power with busy work that probably won’t help. (Perhaps lost in that pile of projects, but worth noting as a sign of the times, is Hollande’s plan to pull troops out of Afghanistan before the end of the year.) But his election is encouraging for two reasons. First, it’s possible he’ll manage the economy about as well as anyone in France ever does, as his Socialist predecessor François Mitterrand eventually learned to do. Second, it gets Sarkozy out of the way. If he’d hung on, his country would have been absurdist performance theatre for another five years and the Socialists would be guaranteed of victory in 2017. This way his party has a chance of finding a serious candidate for that next election. I nominate this guy. Meanwhile it’s still a pretty country.

 




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Sarkozy, fini

  1. All the polls were wrong because as I understand it nobody can get the phone company to keep an appointment to hook up a phone.

    • The latest poll (conducted May 4th) predicted it would be 48-52. The results of the election were 48.3-51.7. I’d say that’s pretty damn good.

      • Apparently Ekos does not do polls in France.

    • I got the joke, GFMD. And it gave me flashbacks. Thanks.

  2. One of his promises is to re establish the age of retirement to 60 from 62.

    It may be a ‘Nixon goes to China’ thing where the socialists are able to implement needed reforms, but I doubt it. The challenge will be to come up with an acronym to replace ‘piigs’, inserting an F somewhere.

    • Most centre-left governments in G-8 countries have been more fiscally conservative than centre-right governments since the 90s. Their problem is that, as left-wingers, they have less credibility vis-a-vis the international financial community. So they end up governing to the right (eg. Clinton, Chretien, Blair). Even Obama – with some pretty favourable circumstances (a crisis, reasonably low debt-load, and a strong hand in congress) surrounded himself with Wall Street guys like Summers and Geithner. He passed a stimulus with a large tax cut component, whiffed on Frank-Dodd, watered down healthcare reform like nobody’s business (and combined it with medicare cuts), and focused bailout efforts on Wall Street, while doing little for ailing homeowners.

      Hollande will fold like a chair when faced with the threat of further downgrades of the French credit rating, and the possible exodus of capital (which is really really easy to do since France is a member of the EU). We probably won’t get a real hard-left turn until you see lefties that actively oppose globalization (and the EU) come into office.

      • “… a strong hand in congress”

        The give and take of Congress is history, and the institution is much changed for it. With an up-and-down opposition, you need a supermajority in the Senate to have a strong hand. Obama’s strong hand in Congress, if it ever was that, was about a 60 day window.

        Too bad, because he could have been a much more consequential President if he’d had virtually any previous Congress.

  3. Wells Reading your tweets, you seem sanguine about France/Germany relationship and how they always manage to work together while I think Marianne and Fritz’s marriage is about to get very shaky indeed. France is broke, Germany only country with money, Merkel might want to spend $$$ but I don’t think Germans do. Interesting to watch Europe over the next few years – I don’t think Euro money or EU going to survive as they are now.

    I wonder about the Libya financing story, if it is true. I first read this rumour about a month ago and it won’t go away. Will be interesting to see if this story is either confirmed or disproved.

    AP, May 2012:

    A former Libyan prime minister claims Moammar Gadhafi’s regime financed French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign, according to his lawyer. Sarkozy vehemently denies the allegations.The accusations of a staggering €50 million in illegal financing come at a rough time for Sarkozy, who had an up-and-down relationship with the late Gadhafi’s Libya and is trailing in polls ahead of a presidential election Sunday.

  4. Luv the last sentence!

  5. A 52% win spells trouble. France is really screwed.

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