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Text by Thibault LIEURADE

Latest update : 2010-03-10

Members of France's opposition have blasted President Nicolas Sarkozy’s involvement in the regional elections, claiming Sarkozy is over-stepping his mandate. Political analyst Stephane Rozes explains what is at stake for the embattled president.

On Jan. 25, French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed not to “nationalise” the campaigns for forthcoming regional elections, only to do the exact opposite.

With his UMP party seemingly headed for a beating on March 14 and 21, the French president has taken a frontline position in the campaign. In doing so, he appears to have turned the local contests into a US-style mid-term election – putting his name on the ballot.

Stephane Rozes, a political analyst and head of the Paris-based consulting firm “Conseils, Analyses et Perspectives”, shared his perspective on the situation.

FRANCE 24: This week President Nicolas Sarkozy has given an interview to a leading French magazine and paid a visit to Franche-Comté, one of only a handful of regions where his party appears to have a chance of winning. Has he turned the campaign for the regional elections into a national poll?

Stephane Rozes: The campaign so far can be split into three stages. Nicolas Sarkozy initially sought to throw his weight behind the campaign in a bid to weld his party together. But his own camp soon asked him to take a step back, fearing the president’s sagging approval rate might hurt its candidates’ chances of election. More recently, Sarkozy opened a third stage by summoning his party’s frontrunners in the Paris region to the presidential palace to put their faltering campaign back on track.

F24: What prompted the president to step back into the limelight?

S. R.: There are two main reasons. First, Sarkozy believes he is better placed to restore the left-right divide that is crucial to mobilising conservative voters. The prospect of high abstention among right-leaning voters is indeed the main threat for the ruling party. But the president is also eager to give the impression he worked up a sweat during the campaign, whatever the result. It’s a risky move considering that most voters will have local – rather than national – issues on their mind when they cast their ballot.

F24: Why has Sarkozy already ruled out a cabinet reshuffle?

S. R.: Simply because he is reluctant to give the impression that his policies are dictated by public opinion and election results.



Date created : 2010-03-10


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