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Nicolas Sarkozy
biography, economic and political program
Article added on May 1, 2007
Biography of Nicolas Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy is the head of the French center-right UMP party and the frontrunner in the French Presidential election to be decided on May 6, 2007.
Born in Paris on January 28, 1955 he is the son of a Hungarian immigrant of noble descent, Pál Sárközy de Nagy-Bócsa, who seeked refuge in France after the Communists took over his country after World War Two, and Andrée Mallah, a French Catholic. Her father, an urologist, was of Jewish descent and had immigrated from Thessaloniki in the 1930s. He gave his children a very French education and raised them in the Roman Catholic faith.

The father of Nicolas Sarkozy entered the advertising industry, later founding his own agency. He had a reputation as a womanizer and left the family in 1959. The mother with her three sons soon moved to Neuilly, the wealthiest and most fashionable suburb of Paris. She finished her studies and became a lawyer.

As a teenager, Nicolas was chubby, small in stature and, as an immigrant's son, an outsider in the snobbish neighborhood, as he confessed in his autobiography. He obtained a Bachelor's degree in law from the Université Paris X Nanterre. After passing the bar exam, he worked as a lawyer specialized in French business law and family law, which was useful in helping his mother taking legal action against his father to raise alimony.

Nicolas Sarkozy became active in politics at the age of 20. In 1975, he held a speech at a meeting of Chirac's followers in Nice and got a standing ovation for saying that
“being a Gaullist meant being a revolutionary”. He later joined the ranks of the RPR, the party founded by Jacques Chirac in 1976. Charles Pasqua, the former head of de Gaulle's secret service, became his mentor and the witness to his first marriage. At the age of 22, Achille Peretti, the Mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, helped him become a Municipal Councillor in his city. When the Mayor died in 1983, Sarkozy decided to betray his mentor Pasqua, who was supposed to succeed Perretti. Having grown up in Neuilly, Sarkozy managed to get the municipal councillors behind him and become Mayor of Neuilly himself (1983-2002).

As Mayor of the wealthy city of Neuilly, Sarkozy befriended a series of influential people, including the billionaire Martin Bouygues whose group owns the TV channel TF1, as well as the TV presenter Jacques Martin and his wife Cécilia. Sarkozy fell in love with the beautiful and intelligent Cécilia and married her in 1996.

A member of the National Assembly since 1988, Nicolas Sarkozy entered the government of Edouard Balladur in 1993. Until 1995, Sarkozy served as Minister for the Budget and spokesman for the Executive in the Cabinet Balladur.

In the 1995 French Presidential election, Sarkozy supported then Prime Minister Balladur, the hot favorite in the polls, who only stumbled on the last meters against Sarkozy's long time mentor Jacques Chirac, whose daughter Claude was very close to Sarkozy. In the aftermath of Chirac's election, Sarkozy lost his job as Minister for the Budget. He had to
“cross the desert” and was lambasted as a traitor by the new President's supporters.

After Chirac's disastrous early dissolution of the Parliament in 1997, which ended with the Socialist opposition regaining both the Parliament and, by consequence, the Government, Sarkozy was able to make his comeback to the leadership of the RPR. It was short lived and ended with his defeat in the European election of 1999, where he arrived with record low 12.7% behind the list led by Charles Pasqua. Sarkozy stepped down from the party leadership and had serious doubts about his political future. He became a lawyer for Bouygues Télécom and the LVMH luxury group of Bernard Arnaud, another billionaire from Neuilly who, together with Martin Bouygues, was a witness to Sarkozy's second marriage.

In 2001, Sarkozy made another comeback by publishing his programmatic book Libre (“Free”). One year later, after Chirac's infamous win in the French presidential election - not because he had much credibility left, but because his opponent in the second round was the Right-wing leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, which made even the Left vote for Chirac - Sarkozy had hopes of becoming the next Prime Minister. But Chirac preferred Raffarin and later de Villepin. Still, Sarkozy became Minister of the Interior. Seen as a trap by many, Sarkozy used his chance in this delicate ministry and became France's best loved politician in opinion polls, being hard on crime, dynamic and all over the media.

In 2004, Sarkozy moved to the position of Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industry and conquered the leadership of the UMP in November. For the first time since 1976, President Chirac lost the control over his party (the RPR, later enlarged and re-baptized UMP). Asked by a journalist on the TV channel France2 whether he thought about the Presidential election when shaving, he famously answered, “not just when I shave”. Chirac forced Sarkozy to step down as minister, a position seen as incompatible with the leadership of the party.

In 2005, this mattered not anymore. Sarkozy was again appointed Minister of the Interior by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, without resigning from the UMP leadership. An odd situation  with the party Chairman serving under a Prime Minister which had never been elected to an office. Very late, only on March 26, 2007 Nicolas Sarkozy resigned as Minister of the Interior in order to focus on his Presidential campaign, which he has so far successfully managed as the frontrunner in
the first round of April 22, 2007. The run-off election against his Socialist opponent Ségolène Royal will take place on May 6, 2007.

On the private level, after his first marriage to Corsican-born Marie-Dominique Culioli ended in divorce 1996 (they had been separated for some time and have two sons together), Nicolas married Cécilia Ciganer-Albeniz, the daughter of a Spanish diplomat. She left her first husband, TV presenter Martin, in 1989. Nicolas and Cécilia have a son born in 1996. Incidentally, Cécilia is the great-grand-daughter of the famous pianist and composer
Isaac Albéniz.

Cécilia became one of the most important political supporters of Sarkozy, who is notoriously suspicious. The couple appeared often in public. However, in 2005-2006, she had an affair with the director of Publicis, Richard Attias, who for instance organizes the World Economic Forum in Davos. As a successful event organizer and communicator, he came in contact with Cécilia Sarkozy, who just tried to do exactly that for her husband. Their affair was the talk of Paris and, according to many observers, drove Nicolas Sarkozy almost mad.

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The economic and political program of Nicolas Sarkozy

In an interview published in the French newspaper Le Monde on April 25, 2007 t
he probable next French President - to be elected on May 6 - Nicolas Sarkozy outlined once more his economic and political program.

Nicolas Sarkozy stated that labor and its revaluation were his top priorities. He opposed a “policy of sacrifice” regarding the reduction of the national debt and the budgetary deficit. Instead, he favored “a policy based on effort and work”. By stimulating growth through an increased amount of work, he intends to increase the state revenue. In order to reduce the state deficit, he intends to replace only one out of two retiring state employees.

Sweden, Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom are the four countries in the European Union with full-employment and Spain has divided its unemployment rate by two. Sarkozy underlined that this was not the fruit of the 35 weekly hours of work - the recipe of the French Socialists - but by forbidding the unemployed to refuse more than two jobs corresponding to his qualification and by asking for a minimal activity in exchange for social welfare. Sarkozy underlined that his recipe was work whereas the Socialists offered only poverty and money in exchange for nothing. Sarkozy also championed the creation of an active industrial policy by the state applied to ten key sectors. Universities will become free trade areas, where students creating enterprises on the campus will be exempt from taxes for five years.

Towards the voters and especially the Members of Parliament of the centrist-liberal UDF candidate François Bayrou, who was eliminated from the Presidential race collecting 18.6% of the vote in the first round, Sarkozy made some overtures. He announced that all candidates to the general election of June 10 and 17, 2007 who support him before May 6 will be endorsed by the ruling majority, as was the case in previous years.

Points of criticism towards Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy worries many French not only because of his temper and his strive for reforms, but also because, in 2005, he threatened to clean up the suburbs with Kärcher, a well-known high-ressure cleaning brand not to happy about the unwanted publicity, although sales went up since then. Instead of calming down the riots, Sarkozy's remarks added fuel to the flames created after the police had shot a teenager in the Parisian suburb of Courneuve in June 2005.

Sarkozy repeatedly vowed to punish judges who released criminals who afterwards committed terrible crimes. His populist attitude was widely seen as threatening the separation of the executive from the judicial power.

Although Sarkozy is the most likely Presidential candidate to actually push for reform, his liberal credo is not without doubt for other reasons too. He substantially deviated from economic liberalism in the cases of both Alstom-Siemens and of Sanofi-Aventis, where he championed industrial interventionism and the creation of national economic champions” instead of having the market sort it out.

After the introduction of the Euro, after complaints and upon the request of consumer organizations, Sarkozy had no scruples to summon the big retailers to him and to ask them to lower their prices. Populism is neither the sole trademark of Ségolène Royal nor François Bayrou, the two other main contenders for the presidency, of whom only Royal remains in the second round.

Until the summer of 2006, Sarkozy's campaign was centered around the notion of  “rupture”, a fundamental break with past politics and economics in France. Only at a meeting in Touraine on July 6, 2006 the candidate of the UMP began to re-centre his campaign. He was afraid that his famous “rupture économique” might frighten too many French voters. Instead, he insisted that he was “neither Mrs. Thatcher nor Ronald Reagan”. [Added on May 2, 2007: According to Le Monde], at the meeting in Touraine, Sarkozy made clear that his mission was both to “assemble the Liberals, the Gaullists, the Centrists, the Europeans, the Souverainistes“ and to “insure the coherence of the whole”.

He now insisted that he wanted to create
 “a new political synthesis allowing the reconciliation of economic efficiency and social justice, of authority and liberty, of the attachment to France and the opening towards Europe”. The openly declared aim of this syncretism was to win 50% plus one vote in the 2007 Presidential election.

Still in July 2006, he began to insist on a “more reactive and ambitious monetary policy by the European Union regarding growth and employment”. Later, more than once, he attacked the European Central Bank for favoring a strong Euro towards the Dollar.

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.