Sunday, June 10, 2007

Things can only get worse

So, the early signs are that Monsieur Sarkozy -- apologies, M. le President -- has swept the board. It's a remarkable achievement for the combative character who has turned from being a divisive, uncompromising candidate to the leader with a cross-party cabinet and with approval ratings which have left this orbit. How long can this last?

If you detect in that question a certain lust for Schadenfreude -- you'd be right. Whatever my learned colleague may say, Sarkozy is not one of us. When he talks of being liberal, the image he has in mind is Mrs T not Beveridge. He has the dubious honour of being able to claim personal responsibility for some of the unrest in Paris and elsewhere last year. And through his presidential campaign he did not budge from his rhetoric aimed at winning Le Pen votes. But for all my suspicion, I have to admit there is a buzz in the air around him.

There does seem to be among some usually left-leaning French people a sense that Sarkozy is the man for the moment and the moment spells change. They might not agree with their President on what shape the change should take, but that appears to be secondary for the moment. Give the man a chance. But could this honeymoon turn as frosty as the presidential marriage is said to be? There are danger signs for Sarko.

Having approval ratings around 70% in itself creates an obvious chance to stumble. But what is more striking is the abstention rate in the elections today: the turn-out was nearly British in its meagre percentage, at 61%. Is this because the Socialists, still smarting, stayed at home, leaving the field free for Sarkozy's UMP? That is surely part of the explanation. But it is probably not just that. Another likely element is that there are many who are still not sure about Sarkozy -- they expected his party to win, but they didn't want to give him a helping hand again. In other words, they might like Sarkozy, but they don't trust him. That should give the President pause to worry, but somehow I doubt it does.

1 comment:

Tristan said...

Sarkozy is no liberal. But then neither were any of the other candidates.
People made noises about Beyrou being liberal, but he's a protectionist (immediate disqualification in my book) as well as many other faults.

I just hope Sarkozy can kick start a French liberal movement by making people appreciate liberal economics without letting go of social freedoms (Sarkozy is a social conservative, but perhaps people will be intelligent enough to detach his liberal aspects from that - then again, it didn't happen much with Thatcher(*) so I don't hold out much hope...)

(*) Yes, get ready to run me out of town, but Thatcher did have some liberal ideas, she just had authoritarian ones as well...