Tuesday, April 17, 2007

French election

From The Australian, April 17, 2007 by Emma-Kate Symons, Paris ....

Le Pen brands Sarkozy as 'scum'

JEAN-MARIE Le Pen unleashed a vicious attack yesterday on his chief rival in the French presidential elections, labelling Nicolas Sarkozy a "scum politician" and an "American" who despised French blood and wanted to steal the extreme right's votes. [What a great endorsement. If Le Pen is against him, he must be doing something right. See the article appended below on Sarkozy. - SL]

With up to one in four voters still undecided less than a week before the April 22 vote, and Mr Le Pen hopeful of a repeat of 2002 when he made it to the second round of the election against Jacques Chirac, the National Front leader abandoned earlier suggestions of a rapprochement with Mr Sarkozy.

....The use of the word "scum" - racaille - was carefully chosen by Mr Le Pen. In 2005, before the riots in housing estates across France, Mr Sarkozy earned the hatred of unemployed youths in the French suburbs when he labelled them "scum".

In front of 5000 tricolour-waving supporters at a Paris sports complex, Mr Le Pen delivered a vintage nationalist rant on the French decline ("total economic and social disaster"), melding anti-Americanism and anti-Israel sentiments with his traditional attacks on immigration "which if we do nothing we will be submerged by".

He repeated his ridicule of Mr Sarkozy as a child of Hungarian and Greek immigrants, before castigating him for being too "Atlantic" in foreign policy, "warlike" and "proud to be called Sarkozy the American ....If the United States or Israel went down the path of belligerence, would you engage France at their side in a war against Iran?" Mr Le Pen demanded.

....Mr Sarkozy, on a campaign sweep in Mr Le Pen's traditional southern heartland in the department of Vaucluse in Provence, which voted 29 per cent National Front in 2002, seemed unperturbed by Mr Le Pen's attacks. Stressing his law-and-order credentials and desire to attract those who believed in the value of work and "the pride of being French", Mr Sarkozy again sought the votes of extreme right sympathisers.

..."It is not Le Pen who interests me, it is his electorate. What interests me is the future. I do not want Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round, like in 2002. There is another possibility than to abstain or vote National Front." Mr Sarkozy's strategy appears to be working, with some polls saying he could attract 20 per cent of Mr Le Pen's base.

In private discussions with his closest campaign advisers, however, Mr Sarkozy remains convinced he will face the Socialist Party's Segolene Royal in the second round on May 6.
In her final week of campaigning, the telegenic Socialist leader who wants to be France's first woman president, said she was convinced, despite lagging in the polls, that she would win what she says will be a "planetary event".

For some background, see this from The Heritage Foundation, WebMemo #1241, October 31, 2006, by Sally McNamara, Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom ...

Regime Change in Paris: How Nicolas Sarkozy Could Reinvigorate U.S.-French Relations

...by spring 2007 the president of France could well be Nicolas Sarkozy, the man who The Washington Post described as “not your everyday French politician.” For a start, the current French Interior Minister and leader of the UMP conservative party is pro-American. He understands that the war on terrorism is the world’s fight and not one America should have to bear alone. He grasps the nature of the threat facing Continental Europe from Muslim extremism and favors fighting terrorism head-on and without apology. His worldview is not one that ends in the Michelin-starred restaurants of Paris. Further, he is vocally enthusiastic about the Anglo-Saxon economic model and keen to shake up the statist, government-centered French economy with a hefty dose of innovation and entrepreneurialism. So if Nicolas Sarkozy does become president next year, what exactly will it mean for U.S. interests?

Sarkozy and U.S. Foreign Policy
... Having openly flaunted his ambitions for some time, Mr. Sarkozy has used his many elected and appointed political offices to set out a powerful manifesto for the presidency. And for American strategic interests, it is a good one.

As chief pretender to the throne, Sarkozy has recently taken it upon himself to conduct his own foreign policy while abroad, independent of the traditional Gaullist line. Chirac’s well-reported fury at Sarkozy’s pro-American rhetoric during a U.S. visit in September 2006 indicates just how far Sarkozy is willing to go to distance himself from what he sees as the ancien régime.

....It is an open secret that Sarkozy was critical of Chirac’s vocal opposition to the Iraq War in 2003, an issue that dogs Franco-American relations to this day. In his September 2006 interview with Le Monde, Sarkozy said that this period marked a “crisis” for Franco-American relations and that “Americans felt that they were abandoned by a nation with which they had felt close historical ties and shared values.” Chirac, in turn, described Sarkozy’s comments as “irresponsible” and “lamentable.”

Sarkozy’s stance on the Israeli-Lebanon war represented another break with French foreign policy. Sarkozy was not afraid to condemn Hezbollah as the aggressor and spoke up for Israel’s right “to defend herself.” While urging that Israel should “maintain level headedness and restraint,” he refused to join the European Union (EU) chorus calling for a total ceasefire. In fact, his policy was remarkably similar to that of the United States and marked Sarkozy as a sensible voice on the Middle East in Europe.

Sarkozy’s efforts to combat disturbingly high levels of anti-Americanism in France have great significance for the overall war on terrorism. One year after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, more than half of the French people believed that the U.S. motivation for the war on terror was to dominate the world. Today, 76 percent of the French people believe that the war in Iraq and removal of Saddam Hussein has made the world a more dangerous place. For his part, Sarkozy has publicly acknowledged that Paris could just have easily been the target of the 9/11 terrorists and is adamant that anti-Americanism is not “a French thing.” Sarkozy’s “new” foreign policy is sending a powerful message right to the heart of Europe. His warm relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel quashes any prospect of the sort of anti-American axis between Berlin, Rome, and Paris that left-wing Italian Prime Minister Roman Prodi might have hoped for.

In all, the gulf growing between Chirac and his potential heir favors the United States. Ahead in the polls, Sarkozy may well be the next president of France. His victory would mean the chance for America to work more effectively with a medium-sized foreign power in ad hoc coalitions, such as in Afghanistan, and also that the U.S. would have a more genial partner within the EU and the United Nations Security Council. With huge foreign policy questions such as Iran and North Korea taking center stage, America will benefit from a more cooperative approach from the Élysée Palace.

The White House should relish the prospect of a potential ally in Europe who rejects the rabid anti-Americanism that has become an integral part of modern French politics....

Nicolas Sarkozy represents the best hope for a French administration that would work more closely with the United States on the world stage. His rejection of the crude anti-Americanism that has dominated U.S.-French relations since the Iraq War is brave and refreshing and should win Sarkozy friends in Washington. Sarkozy has also demonstrated a tougher stance on the global war on terrorism than any of his leading competitors for the presidency.

However, the United States should not expect an immediate sea change in French foreign policy if Sarkozy comes to power. He will face opposition from powerful vested interests in the French political establishment that will resist fundamental changes in Paris’s approach toward Washington. Sarkozy is also likely to stick to the trusted model of the Franco-German alliance and will push for more, not less, centralization of political power in Europe.

His European policy aside, Nicolas Sarkozy will be a breath of fresh air on the international stage, but whether he has the drive, determination, and leadership ability to fundamentally transform the U.S.-French relationship remains to be seen.

No comments: