What bothers Sarkozy’s critics

Although the final act will be played out in two weeks’ time, it seems to be quite clear that the next French president will be Nicolas Sarkozy. And France will finally turn over a new leaf. France’s citizens appear to be displaying recognition of and trust in a leader whose words do not sound wooden or hollow, a potential president who does not talk in vague approximations and abstractions as if he were some sort of spirit from the beyond. One of the good things about Sarkozy is that he is not only indifferent to whether certain people will object to his ideas and actions, he actually prefers to alienate some individuals, chiefly those who are likely to lose the privileges they have become accustomed to. Sarkozy appears to be a politician who is not afraid of a potential clash, verbal or literal, someone who says and does what he believes, someone who seeks to extricate politics from the sterilized, aristocratic style of management that dominates it and return it to its proper role. And it is exactly this that bothers the representatives of this system, in France and across Europe. That is hardly any surprise: Those who represent an established regime are unlikely to smile kindly upon a politician who suddenly leaps up as if from nowhere. The example of Sarkozy may inspire new political forces in different countries across Europe. As had been expected, Sarkozy’s rivals tried to project the pre-electoral struggle as a good old-fashioned clash between Left and Right. Moreover, they tried to convey the impression that Sarkozy is, in reality, a closet far-rightist. Again, this does not come as a surprise. The politicians who have been opposing Sarkozy are just doing their jobs, ever faithful to a long-running tradition of political juxtaposition. But it seems that they face a rival who is well aware of their tactics, has prepared meticulously and has frustrated them early on in the game. What seems to bother them most is not Sarkozy’s ideology, but the fact that he is attempting to realign the relationship between politics and society in a way that greatly diminishes the role of mediating technocrats which has prevailed in many European countries. And the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, Segolene Royal, is the epitome of such a mediator, the golden child of this system. It is worth asking – after such a long pre-electoral countdown – what do we actually know about the candidates? Whether one embraces or rejects Sarkozy’s stances, one senses from the outset that they will lead to a series of major developments in France and elsewhere. On the other hand, with Royal, there is mostly talk of plans and abstractions, with just a few issues on which she has outlined a clear stance.

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