Viewing cable 06PARIS5974, FRENCH ELECTION 2007: NICOLAS SARKOZY -- THE
Every cable message consists of three parts:
- The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
- The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
- The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #06PARIS5974.
|06PARIS5974||2006-09-06 15:03||2010-11-30 21:09||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Paris|
VZCZCXRO2589 PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHFR #5974/01 2491539 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 061539Z SEP 06 FM AMEMBASSY PARIS TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1063 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RUEHC/DEPARTMENT OF LABOR WASHDC RUCPDOC/DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE WASHDC RUEATRS/DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 005974 SIPDIS SIPDIS DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/WE, DRL/IL, INR/EUC, EUR/ERA, EUR/PPD, AND EB 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 PARIS 00005974 002.2 OF 004 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