Sarkozy launches presidential bid
Small world: Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni could return to the public eye. Source: Wikimedia
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that he is running in the 2017 presidential election but he must first win his Republican party’s primary in November.
The diminutive former head of state said he “felt he had the strength to lead the combat at such a tormented moment in our history”.
“The next five years will be filled with danger but also with hope,” he said. He listed what he said were the five major challenges facing the country, including defending national identity, restoring lost competitiveness and enforcing state authority.
He said France’s “top battle” revolved around how “to defend our lifestyle without being tempted to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world”.
Sarkozy’s term as president was marked by the 2008 financial crisis and his campaign promises of a country where people could “work more to earn more” had vanished. By 2012, when he left office, unemployment neared 10 per cent, the deficit had expanded and Sarkozy’s much-vaunted reforms had failed to happen.
Sarkozy will probably argue that his plans to rewire the economy had fallen apart because of the 2008 world crisis.
There are 10 other hopefuls in the November primary, of which a couple are serious rivals.
Sarkozy’s former prime minister Francois Fillon and another ex-premier Alain Juppe, the favourite to win in November.
Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation after lengthy questioning in February. The scandals or “affaires” in which the former president is embroiled are extensive and complex but two stand out.
Sarkozy is accused of knowingly exceeding campaign funding limits during his failed 2012 election.
“Sarko” is also said to have put pressure on a judge to reveal details on another case in which he was involved. In both apparent scandals, Sarkozy is formally the target of a judicial investigation that could lead to a trial although the French justice system is extremely slow.
Sarkozy and his lover Carla Bruni were criticised for their glitzy lifestyle, making him deeply unpopular with a chunk of the population.
Sarkozy’s odd personality is a problem. He is impulsive and cocky, leading some to argue he is masking some inner insecurity or just his limited stature. If Sarkozy runs against Francois Hollande next year, it will be an exact re-run of 2012, leaving a door open for Marine Le Pen, the leader of the extreme-right National Front.