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Sarkozy sidelines opposition with huge investment plan

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-06-27

While the opposition socialists gear up for their crucial primaries, French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday outlined his “big loan” programme to invest in education, research and nuclear power.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled on Monday the details of an ambitious investment programme, while all eyes were on the opposition Socialists as they entered a key phase in choosing their next presidential candidate.

The 35-billion-euro “big loan” investment programme was launched in 2009 as a stimulus package to foster innovation and excellence in education and industry. The budget will be raised from government borrowing, as well as from repayments from the banks that were bailed out at the height of the financial crisis in 2008.

“This country has never made such a huge effort to invest in its future,” he told a widely broadcast press conference at the Elysée presidential palace. “This is the only way that France will avoid the pressures of globalisation.”

Sarkozy’s review of the project came a day before Socialist Party (PS) leader Martine Aubry was due to declare her intention to run in party primaries in October. Aubry had not been expected to run until PS favourite Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested for attempted rape in May.

She now joins PS front-runner François Hollande (among others) in the race for the party nomination. Recent opinion polls put both Hollande and Aubry comfortably ahead of Sarkozy in the first round of a presidential vote.

Sarkozy’s political comeback?

Jean-Yves Camus, a political analyst and researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) think tank, said there was certainly no coincidence that the announcement came as the PS entered its most crucial pre-election phase.

But by setting out a massive investment programme, Camus added, Sarkozy was not only stealing the limelight but also laying the foundations for a political comeback.

“Sarkozy has a lot of time to fight back and emerge as a real presidential candidate,” Camus told FRANCE 24. “The French want a candidate who has a real vision for the future of the country, and here he is delivering it. And by starting a long term project now, when it comes to the elections he will argue that the programme is his vision and that it must be continued with him as president, while pointing out that the PS has no such investment strategy planned for the country’s future.”

The PS primaries, in which every French citizen is entitled to vote, will take place in October. Thereby, the party hopes, a genuinely popular leader will be named, around whom it can rally.

Date created : 2011-06-27

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