Sarkozy to the rescue?

The prospect of Sarkozy replacing Villepin as French Prime Minister has apparently been given a significant boost today, with a close aide of Sarkozy saying his boss could accept such an offer, provided he is allowed to carry out his (and not Chirac’s) political agenda.

Now, maybe this won’t come to pass (and I’ll argue below that it probably won’t). But it is worth recalling some recent history to show how extraordinary such a move would be.

It is not just that Chirac had considered Sarkozy a traitor since he chose to support the presidential bid of (then Prime minister) Edouard Balladur in the presidential elections of 1995. It is also that Chirac has done everything in his power to impede Sarkozy’s rise to power since 2002. In 2004, Chirac battled behind the scenes to try to foil the takeover of his own UMP party by Sarkozy, then the popular Minister of the Interior. When that didn’t work, he ordered him to leave the government, on the theory that having the head of the main party of the parliamentary majority in the cabinet would sap the authority of the Prime Minister (conveniently forgetting that Alain Juppé, a long-time Chirac protégé, was at the same time president of the RPR and Foreign Minister from November 1994 to May 1995).

That theory did last less than a year, since Sarko was back in the government after the failed referendum on the EU constitution in late May 2005. But Chirac ignored the calls of his parliamentary majority to name Sarko Prime Minister and went for Villepin instead, with the hope of making the latter a rival to the former for the next presidential elections. Asking now Sarko to replace Villepin would then be tantamount to a declaration of surrender on Chirac’s part.
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De Villepin tried to frame Sarkozy?

Major political scandal underway in France says Jerome.

A first scandal was started in early 2004 when a number of politicians (including Nicolas Sarkozy) and top businessmen were accused to have hidden bank accounts with Clearstream in Luxembourg. These accusations were proven to be false in early 2005 by the investigating judge, and new judicial procedures were started, by Sarkozy and others, for slander (“dénonciation calomnieuse”), to try to find out the mysterious source of the fake documents that triggered the first scandal.

Sarkozy has long suspected Chirac and Villepin to have been behind this attack on him, and today’s revelations would seem to bear this out. Villepin has already denied categorically the substance of what Le Monde prints today, but this could trigger his resignation and a government reshuffle, especially coming just after the CPE episode which has gravely weakened his authority and credibility.

Lost In Translation?

Interesting piece in the FT this morning about Jack Lang, French PS politician, and possible presidential hopeful in 2007. Before going further I should perhaps point out that the only thing I really know about Lang is that when he was the Culture Minister, back in the 80’s, he opened a small museum dedicated to my preferred contemporary French poet – Ren? Char – in Char’s home town of L’Isle sur la Sorge. This fact may cloud my vision somewhat.

Lang is, one would have thought, the most improbable of Presidential candidates. Nonetheless, as the FT points out, he is definitely out in front as the most electable PS politician in the recent Paris Match (ifop) poll, pinning Sarkozy down to a fairly assailable 52% of the voting intentions in a head to head with him.
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Meanwhile and elsewhere

I’m sure Doug will have more to say about this, but the early results from the Romanian elections show it as being a lot closer that expected, with a run-off (between Nastase and Basescu) expected for the Presidency.

And the next French Presidential election may be three years away, but it’s already hotting up with the ‘coronation’ at the weekend of former Finance Minister Nicholas Sarkozy as leader of the ruling UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) party. This Guardian leader highlights a potential parallel with the last US elections, with the Democrats’ search for the ABB (Anyone But Bush) candidate mirrored by the Elysee Palace’s search for the TSS (Tout Sauf Sarkozy – anyone but Sarkozy) candidate which may, of course, be Jacques Chirac seeking a third term and his personal dream of occupying the Elysee for longer than Mitterrand.