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French press pounces on Sarkozy’s patriotic campaign speech

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-03-06

Many French editorialists were scathing of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s opening campaign speech at a rally in Marseille, labeling it as divisive and disingenuous rather than substantive. France24.com takes a closer look.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy entered full-throttle campaign mode in the southern city of Marseille on Sunday, defending his record and slamming Socialist opponent Francois Hollande in a fiery speech with strong nationalistic undertones.

But with the unemployment rate at 10 percent and the economy barely growing, the opinion and Editorial pages of France’s newspapers Monday rounded on the unpopular head of state’s address as long on patriotism but short on policy.

‘The French and the anti-French’

Much of the regional press gave Sarkozy’s speech negative reviews. Michel Lepinay of Paris-Normandie, a northwestern daily, expressed disappointment that Sarkozy opted for divisive language rather than substantive solutions to France’s economic woes. “We were expecting a presentation of programmes to combat the crisis,” he wrote. “Instead, we got a war between the French and the anti-French, republicans and their enemies. That is certainly not what is going to help voters forge an opinion.”

Herve Cannet of the newspaper La Nouvelle Republique du Centre-ouest was similarly unimpressed. Ironically summarising what he described as the negative message of Sarkozy’s speech, Cannet wrote: “Down with my opponent, who shall remain nameless, but who is a demagogue and liar; down with the elites…; down with all those who don’t like France.”

Unsurprisingly, France’s left-wing press greeted the speech with great scepticism. Nicolas Demorand of left-wing daily Libération argued that the president was trying to “sell the idea that despite Fouquet’s [a posh Parisian restaurant Sarkozy has been known to frequent], the yacht, the tax ceiling, the billionaire friends, and the recent reduction of taxes on wealth, he is of the ‘people’”. The other aim of the speech, according to Demorand, was to “make people forget that the right, for the past 10 years, has had the power to resolve problems it’s pretending to discover two months before the election”.

'A president for celebs and jet-setters'

Communist-affiliated daily L’Humanité was in agreement. “It would be so simple for a president running for re-election…if the French had no memory,” Jean-Paul Pierot quipped. “If voters could only forget that the supposed ‘candidate of the people’ is in fact a president for celebs and jet-setters.”

The editorial in Catholic daily la Croix struck a less scathing tone but also warned against political rhetoric splitting the country into pro- and anti-French contingents. That “binary logic is risky” because “it is accompanied by the degradation of political discourse”, François Ernenwein wrote.

A more sympathetic assessment could be found in right-leaning daily Le Figaro. Paul-Henri du Limbert wrote that the president’s speech was in some way reminiscent of his centre-right t and much-admired predecessor [former president Charles de Gaulle], who was known for lyrical declarations of love for his country and a capacity for making tough decisions. “[Sarkozy] offered a vision that demands a lot of France”, Limbert noted. “France can face adversity if it can accept sacrifices.”
 

Date created : 2012-02-20

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