Julian Assange

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Viewing cable 06PARIS5974, FRENCH ELECTION 2007: NICOLAS SARKOZY -- THE

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06PARIS5974 2006-09-06 15:03 2010-11-30 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris

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RUEHC/DEPARTMENT OF LABOR WASHDC
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 005974 

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DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/WE, DRL/IL, INR/EUC, EUR/ERA, EUR/PPD, 
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DEPT OF COMMERCE FOR ITA 
DEPT OF LABOR FOR ILAB 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2015 
TAGS: PGOV ELAB EU FR PINR SOCI ECON
SUBJECT: FRENCH ELECTION 2007: NICOLAS SARKOZY -- THE 
CANDIDATE WHO MIGHT CHANGE FRANCE 


Classified By: Ambassador Craig Stapleton for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 

Summary 
------- 
1. (C) Eight months before France's 2007 Presidential 
election, Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy remains the best 
positioned of the many contenders for France's presidency. 
He is a markedly different presidential heavyweight, 
pro-American and committed to free-market principles. 
Notwithstanding his evident strengths and popularity, many 
French voters are still uncomfortable with the idea of 
"President Sarkozy," and questions about his hyperactive 
personality, his core law-and-order agenda, and divisions 
within the ruling UMP make his election far from certain. 
Sarkozy's Gaullist political heritage and his likely "I can 
speak frankly to the Americans" refrain mean that France and 
Sarkozy would remain an independent and challenging ally. 
However, a Sarkozy presidency would certainly bring a new and 
welcome tone to U.S.-French relations -- and perhaps, over 
time, a French approach to world problems that is less 
fixated on reflexively seeking ways to distinguish France 
from the U.S. Sarkozy's greatest contribution to France 
could be his promise to free the country's latent economic 
dynamism from the constraints of statism and labor rigidity. 
End Summary. 

Timeline to the Election 
------------------------ 
2. (U) Eight months ahead of the first round of France's 
2007 presidential election, to be held on either Sunday, 
April 15 or Sunday, April 22, 2007, Interior Minister and 
President of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement 
party (UMP) Nicolas Sarkozy remains the best positioned of 
the many contenders. In the last presidential election in 
2002, there were 16 candidates in the first round. Slightly 
fewer are expected this time around. The second round 
run-off between the top two vote-getters of the first round 
will be held two weeks later, either Sunday, April 29 or 
Sunday, May 6. Sarkozy has served as Interior Minister in 
the government of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin since 
that government's inception in June 2005. In January 2007 
(tentatively scheduled for January 14-15) the UMP will hold a 
party congress expected to designate Sarkozy, the party 
leader, as its presidential candidate. Shortly before that 
congress, Sarkozy may well leave the government to dedicate 
himself full-time to pursuing the presidency. In recent 
weeks Sarkozy has been careful to signal that he is keeping 
all his options open in this connection, pointing out that 
nothing prevents him from remaining in the government while 
he pursues the presidency. Sarkozy himself will make the 
final decision -- and will not hesitate to ignore the advice 
of others -- as he did when he chose to rejoin the government 
in June 2005. 

The Best Positioned Contender 
----------------------------- 
3. (C) Ever since his first tenure as interior minister 
(2002 - 2004), when he emerged as a top-tier national 
political figure, Sarkozy has been highly popular with a 
large segment of the French electorate. The most recent 
polling figures show that popularity holding steady. 
Sarkozy's unchallenged control of the Union for a Popular 
Movement (UMP) party (which was founded by President Chirac) 
also increases his election chances. Sarkozy has worked to 
turn the UMP into a formidable electoral machine, complete 
with focus groups for keeping his message tuned to voters' 
concerns and volunteer organizations for turning out the 
Sarkozy-for-president vote. Since he became president of the 
party in 2004, Sarkozy has also increased the number of party 
members from 100,000 to 250,000 today. This political 
organization gives Sarkozy a powerful advantage, and should 
ensure his presence in the second round of the election. 
Moreover, Sarkozy is a formidable campaigner, energetic, 
quick on his feet and appealingly direct. The combination of 
popularity, control of his party, and masterful political 
skills, including as a campaigner, is unmatched by any of the 
other presidential contenders. 

A Different Kind of Presidential Heavyweight 
-------------------------------------------- 
4. (C) Sarkozy is hard to pigeon-hole; he is not a 
traditional French conservative, which is clear from some of 
his policy proposals. Sarkozy often speaks of the need for 
France to break with policies and attitudes that undercut the 

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country's economic dynamism. Sarkozy has long called for 
lower taxes and more "liberal" (i.e., free-market) economic 
policies to encourage entrepreneurship. He has also long 
called for a less regulated environment for big business, 
something of a novelty in a country in which both left and 
right have always been comfortable with a high level of 
government regulation of the economy. The untested 
popularity of Sarkozy's free-market orientation helps explain 
why few commentators at this stage are ready to hazard a firm 
prediction on the outcome of the 2007 election other than to 
affirm that -- presuming candidates of the center-left and of 
the center-right compete in the second round -- it will be 
exceedingly close; Sarkozy himself has indicated to us on a 
numerous occasions that the election will be "51 - 49." 
Sarkozy is well aware of the resistance in France to 
shrinking the role of the state in protecting the economic 
security of both individuals and businesses. 

5. (C) Sarkozy's proposals in the field of social policy -- 
for example, affirmative action in employment and education 
for immigrants who are discriminated against, and limited 
voting rights for non-citizen residents -- are not policies 
traditionally associated with the right of the political 
spectrum in France. Sarkozy's proposals for reforming French 
government institutions -- making the president answerable to 
the legislature and responsible for the domestic policies of 
the government, while giving the legislature more oversight 
over France's foreign policy -- also break the mold of 
traditional, center-right French Gaullism. Most of all, 
Sarkozy is associated with tough, firm enforcement of 
anti-crime and counter-terrorism measures. 

Doubts about a "President Sarkozy" 
---------------------------------- 
6. (C) Sarkozy is also perceived as a different kind of 
political personality. Recent polls point to the austere De 
Gaulle and the imperturbable Mitterrand as by far the most 
revered of French presidents. That the edgy, intense, 
hands-on Sarkozy is so far from the preferred model of 
Olympian reserve raises the question of whether, as a matter 
of cultural psychology, the French are ready to entrust the 
presidency to Sarkozy. Clearly many French people recognize 
that a "new model" is needed -- a presidency that directs and 
is responsible for domestic policy, especially given the new, 
shorter five-year presidential term. The iconoclastic 
Sarkozy has the most extensive experience and strongest 
credentials for filling that role. The French however, are 
also famously hesitant to embrace change, and in a time of 
apprehension and self-doubt could prefer a more traditional 
and reassuring figure. Some also fear a Sarkozy presidency, 
citing his "hyper-active" personality, and persisting 
factional splits within his own party, and his polarizing 
image as a law-and-order strongman. Electorally, Sarkozy's 
law-and-order image is potentially the most significant. It 
is this hard-edged profile that makes Sarkozy a divisive more 
than unifying figure, generating intense allegiance on the 
right and, equally strongly, unsettling so many on the left 
and even the center of the political spectrum. 

Pro-American at Heart, but Still a French Gaullist 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
7. (C) Sarkozy -- for a French politician -- is forceful and 
unabashed about the need for France to get beyond its 
anti-American reflexes. With the exception of his 
reservations about the wisdom of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 
2003, Sarkozy is the French political leader most supportive 
of the U.S. role in the world. Sarkozy has told the 
Ambassador on several occasions that France needs to help the 
U.S. "get out of Iraq." Sarkozy's pro-American orientation 
has earned him the sobriquet "Sarkozy the American," and his 
affinity for Americans and the U.S. is genuine and heartfelt. 
Sarkozy's admiration for the U.S. comes through in one of 
his favorite stories: when, as a young boy, he told father 
that he wanted to be president, his father told him, "In that 
case, with a name like Sarkozy, you'd better immigrate to 
America." The young Nicolas replied that he wanted to become 
President of France, not the U.S. Sarkozy has always wanted 
to make France a land of equal opportunity for immigrants 
also. 

8. (C) Sarkozy's pro-Americanism , however, should not be 
interpreted as meaning that Gaullist insistence on France's 
(and the EU's) independence from the U.S. in the 
international arena will disappear. France's selective 

PARIS 00005974 003 OF 004 


support for U.S. positions will continue. Nor will Sarkozy 
likely abandon France's traditional preference for 
strengthening the EU over NATO in the name of trans-Atlantic 
rapprochement. As Sarkozy told a visiting Congressional 
delegation last year, "We should never forget that we are 
loyal friends -- and that friends can disagree." Although 
Sarkozy feels close to America (to this day, he recalls with 
fondness his "discovery" of America as an International 
Visitors Program grantee in 1985), his assertive personality 
is such that, as France's president, he would not shy away 
from offering firm advice about how the U.S. might best 
advance towards shared goals -- up to and including bald 
advice to change course. Even so, what Sarkozy would call 
the "loyalty" factor in his friendship toward the U.S. would 
remain intact, and Sarkozy's articulate, public defense of 
that attitude could, over time, result in a greater French 
receptivity to America's global outlook and policy positions. 
Especially if extended over a two-term, ten-year Presidency, 
the result could be a France less resentful of the U.S. -- 
one less reflexively inclined to taking positions that 
intensify and highlight France's differences with the U.S. 

Sarkozy's Free-Market Convictions Could Transform France 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
9. (C) Sarkozy's greatest contribution to France could be in 
freeing the country's latent economic dynamism from the 
constraints of statism and labor rigidity. Sarkozy has, 
since the beginning of his long career in politics, been 
among the most outspokenly "liberal" (that is, 
pro-free-market) of French political leaders. His speeches 
on economic and social issues nearly invariably include 
paeans to commerce, hard work, and entrepreneurship, followed 
by an exhortation to Frenchmen and women to be proud of these 
qualities. Sarkozy would like to make the French more 
"liberal" than they are, and believes economic forces acting 
on France justify his endeavor. Sarkozy often underlines the 
inescapability of the global market and exhorts the French to 
accept the challenges of competing in it with greater 
self-confidence. He is adept at depicting, in ways that 
ordinary voters understand, the drag on opportunity and 
growth of a bloated state intent on monitoring nearly every 
aspect of economic life. 

10. (C) At the same time, Sarkozy understands that the 
French want to be protected and that they are comfortable 
with a high degree of state involvement in the economy. The 
current controversy over the privatization and merger 
involving the national gas company (GDF) and a the energy 
giant Suez exemplifies the persisting sensitivity of 
loosening state control over the economy in France. 
Sarkozy's record -- he is above all a pragmatic politician -- 
as a "liberalizing" policy practitioner is quite mixed. For 
example, during his tenure as Finance Minister 
(March-November 2004), when confronted by labor union 
resistance to significant privatization of state utilities, 
Sarkozy compromised. He worked hard -- and offered 
government assistance -- to keep factories threatened with 
closure operating in France. Spurred by public complaints 
about rising prices in supermarkets, he negotiated 
"voluntary" price controls with major chains. He practiced 
"patriotic liberalism" in helping engineer the merger of a 
large French pharmaceutical company (Aventis) with a larger 
French pharmaceutical firm (Sanofi) rather than with Sanofi's 
foreign rival (the Swiss firm, Novartis). By and large, the 
public approved Sarkozy's protectionist actions. 

11. (C) It remains to be seen whether economic reform will 
be a decisive issue in the upcoming presidential campaign. 
(Comment: If the current trend of economic growth and reduced 
unemployment continues, this is less likely to be the case. 
End Comment.) If it does emerge as the key campaign issue, 
and if a victorious Sarkozy moves early and aggressively to 
effect reform, then he could push the French past the tipping 
point and into a far-reaching and necessary restructuring of 
the French social model. An ambitious Sarkozy reform program 
would likely include, for example, measures to further loosen 
the currently mandated 35-hour workweek, measures to reduce 
wealth and inheritance taxes to encourage long-term 
investment in family firms, measures to restructure 
unemployment and welfare benefits so they act as incentives 
to find work quickly, and measures to reform the university 
system so it provides students with the skills the job market 
requires from them. The result could be a society in which 
entrepreneurship, self-reliance and optimism would be more 

PARIS 00005974 004 OF 004 


highly valued, and in which competition could co-exist with 
the cherished notion of "equality." Such changes could 
release the latent economic creativity and dynamism of the 
French, who, by and large, are highly skilled and 
hard-working. But it will be a tall order. 

12. (C) In Sarkozy, who harbors a more America-like vision 
for France, the moment might well meet the man, ushering in 
an era of higher economic growth and innovation in France. 
Such an economically re-vitalized France would cohere neatly 
with Sarkozy's fundamentally Gaullist principles: renewed 
economic vitality would bolster both France's ambitions to 
lead in Europe and to play a major role in international 
affairs. 
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm 

STAPLETON

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