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France

Sarkozy to answer vetted TV questions on eurozone crisis

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2011-10-27

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will answer pre-approved questions tonight in a 75-minute session on two TV channels following the eurozone crisis summit. The opposition has accused him of using the crisis to launch his presidential campaign.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to appear on national TV Thursday evening at peak viewing time, in a marathon 75-minute interview on the causes of the European debt crisis and the eurozone’s response.

The timing and format of the broadcast have raised eyebrows among media commentators and annoyed the opposition Socialists.

Sarkozy’s public address comes a day after leaders of the 17 eurozone nations met in Brussels to hammer out a 130-billion-euro deal they hope will bring Greece back from the brink and stop the contagion of the debt crisis spreading to other European countries, including France.

Sarkozy “owes an explanation to the French people,” one member of his entourage told conservative daily Le Figaro at the end of the meetings Thursday morning. “Now is the time for him to speak.”

Thursday’s interview will be shown simultaneously on commercial channel TFI and also on France 2, which is part of state broadcaster France Televisions, at 8.15pm Paris time (GMT+2).

Sarkozy will be interviewed at the Elysée presidential palace, where he will be “grilled” by journalists Jean-Pierre Pernaut and Yves Calvi, who will ask pre-approved questions.

Campaign launch?

The broadcast gives Sarkozy a big opportunity to bag some much-needed political capital.

Presidential and legislative elections are due May 2012, and Sarkozy has been languishing behind rival Socialist Francois Hollande in the polls by about 10 points

Hollande was nominated as presidential candidate by the Socialist Party (PS) earlier this month in the country’s first open primary vote, which effectively fired the first salvo of the May 2012 presidential battle.

Sarkozy has not yet officially launched his political campaign. His opponents fear that he is exploiting Europe’s political and economic crisis in a bid to reverse his flagging popularity through Thursday’s carefully choreographed performance.

Commentators also expressed surprise that Sarkozy has chosen a private company, Maximal Productions, to produce the interview, relegating France Televisions to second fiddle in simply airing a presidential broadcast on France 2.

Maximal Productions, it should be noted, was particularly involved in Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign and is owned by Lagadère, a company with close ties to the Elysée.

Decision ‘purely market-driven’

Renaud Revel, editor of weekly news magazine l’Express, wrote in his blog on Wednesday that Swiss journalists visiting his offices “fell about laughing” when he asked them if the head of the Swiss Confederation could choose his questioners when appearing in a national broadcast.

When the same journalists asked Jean-Francois Cope, the chairman of Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party if it was normal practice to use a private production company, Revel writes that “Cope told them he did not understand such an idiotic question and that the decision had been purely market-driven."

On Wednesday, the Socialist party voiced its anger in a communiqué penned by party spokesman Patrick Bloche, denouncing “this conception of democracy that augurs badly for the forthcoming campaign.”

Pointing out that the broadcast is not being moderated by the Conseil Superieur de l'Audovisuel, the body which ensures equality in media time for political parties during political campaigns, the opposition party condemned the format of the broadcast as an example of “Sarkozy’s regal disregard” for fair play.

Date created : 2011-10-27

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