Nicolas Sarkozy (1955- ) is set to become the next president of France on May 16th 2007. On May 6th he won against Segolene Royal on the left in the run-off election. Five out of six French citizens voted in the election. Although many hate Sarkozy, he clearly got over half the vote.
Sarkozy is the head of the largest party on the right, the Gaullist UMP. He will succeed President Jacques Chirac, also of the UMP. He was the number three man in the government, being the interior minister, responsible for law and order in the country.
Sarkozy was most famous for bringing law and order when Muslim youths were burning towns near Paris. He called them racaille – troublemakers.
In the last two weeks while Royal softened her political stand in a shameless attempt to gain votes in the middle, Sarkozy stuck to his right-wing message of law and order, lower taxes, freer labour markets and more limits on letting foreigners into the country.
Sarkozy wants to be the Margaret Thatcher of France and free its labour markets and its companies.
Even in good times a lot of people in France are out of work: about one in ten overall, with even higher rates among the young. Sarkozy blames the labour unions for this. But if he is to free the labour markets he will have to face down the unions, just as Thatcher had to do in Britain and Reagan in America.
But the unions in France are strong, much stronger than they ever were in America. They can bring the whole country to a standstill. They can bring thousands out in the streets in protest and stop laws from from getting passed. And Sarkozy is a man the left loves to hate.
Sarkozy, by giving more power and freedom to companies, is going against the grain in France, where most see more government control as the answer to the country’s troubles.
Sarkozy also goes against the grain on religion. In France religion has little place in public life and certainly no place in government. Yet Sarkozy wants the government to give money to Muslims to help them build mosques. This is to prevent Muslims from becoming dependent on money from other countries.
Sarkozy wants to let fewer foreigners into the country. This is a bit strange coming from him: his father came to France fleeing from the Red Army in Hungary. His mother’s family came to France when they lost everything in Greece because they were Jews. Some of them were later killed by Hitler as Jews.
Sarkozy himself is a French Catholic. He grew up a poor boy without a father in a rich part of Paris. He studied law and later stood for office. He became one of Chirac’s men, but in the 1990s he turned against him when he found that not being president was no longer enough.
When asked in 2003 whether he thinks about becoming president while he shaves in the morning, he replied, “Not just when I shave.”