Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Economist Mag and I Agree About Nicholas Sarkozy: He's France's Best of the Bunch for President

The Economist has endorsed him, finally, but only after much internal debate according to this article at The Figaro (French newspaper) and to this interview with Sophie Pedder, Director of The Economist's French office.

As she carefully points out, TE's editors find that he has the economic program most capable of raising France's living standards, but they hesitated for two reasons:

1. The candidate has a protectionist past;

2. He is making an embarrassingly obvious play for the followers of Le Pen, the extreme right candidate who is presently fourth in line according to the polls (position probably due to his reputed dislike of France's evolving immigrant population, and to rising social unrest.)

I agree that Sarkozy is the only candidate who might do a better job than the others of clearing out a few of the cumbersome socialist cobwebs that have been fettering France's economy for the last 35 years; but as The Economist says, "in the absence of a better choice," he is only "the best of the lot." Hardly high praise.

[Thanks to for the image. Who is the tallest dwarf?]

I've also heard Sarkozy make Global Warming noises -- probably just another attempt to seduce the Greenies. He is indeed somewhat windmill in style; but on top of that, his efforts as Minister of the Interior, in charge of national security and police forces, have been populist in direction but heavy-handed in style (almost frighteningly fascist in style, in fact) -- not the best way to make friends and influence people.

For example, there were two incidents recently, probably timed with precision before the elections to show his political courage, where the police forces came out in an excessive show of might. One involved an illegal immigrant who refused to show his metro ticket. The bullet-proof vests arrived rapidly, creating havoc on the scene and turning many of the onlookers against the "forces de l'ordre" and for the harried illegal.

The second involved another foreigner (a Chinese, I believe) who came to a school to pick up his child. Somehow, another disproportionate scuffle occurred between this man and an excessively enthusiastic swarm of armed forces, bringing out the enmity of the crowd, not against the perpetrator of the unknown crime, but against Sarkozy's own overzealous army.

His poll numbers keep improving in spite of the fact that Le Canard Enchaine (a newspaper noted for its accurate sleuthing of political scandal) recently reported his involvement in a plan calculated to permit present-President Chirac to avoid legal proceedings once he leaves office. (Legal authorities suspect his involvement in illegal activity that took place many years ago, and he has been protected by presidential immunity all these years.) The charge is that Sarkozy or his people schemed to slip this clause imperceptibly into another legislative bill, for the express purpose of obtaining Chirac's endorsement, which in fact Sarkozy did finally and grudgingly receive only a few days ago. Of course, Sarkozy denies the report.

In the meantime, I've heard that a number of France's more industrious and/or wealthy citizens have already begun to prepare their departure from the country should the elections veer to the left. Companies are setting up temporary offices in Switzerland and elsewhere, and private parties have planned their exodus with finances in tow, just in case.

In other words, the smarter rats are preparing to abandon ship if she leans too far portside.

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