Sarkozy’s big speech gets no love from French press
Reviews of President Sarkozy’s campaign speech in the French press have been largely scathing. Many editorialists are characterising his address as a deceptive, desperate bid to turn around what looks to be an uphill battle for re-election.
On Sunday, April 16, the two leading French presidential candidates, centre-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist challenger François Hollande, held dueling campaign rallies in Paris.
But on Monday morning, France’s reporters and editorialists mostly seemed to have one man on their radar: Sarkozy, the politician once frequently praised as dynamic and even transformative, now fighting an uphill battle to stay in office.
Indeed, the French press featured mostly sceptical reviews of Sarkozy’s speech, which he delivered at Paris’s iconic Place de la Concorde.
‘Lyrical and forward-looking’ or ‘nonsensical and inert’?
France’s main left-leaning newspaper, Libération, did not mince its words. “Sarkozy displayed a childishness that suggested his current vulnerability,” the publication known as “Libé” said. “He presented himself as the heir to both Napoleon and De Gaulle, a double posture that captured the essence of his campaign: nonsensical and inert.”
Far-left daily L’Humanité was even more scathing, referring to Sarkozy’s first terms as a period of “destruction” and describing his speech as an instance of “Dr. Jekyll forgetting his Mr. Hyde, a candidate’s words indicating amnesia about a president’s acts”.
Right-leaning daily newspaper Le Figaro was a notable exception to the anti-Sarkozy voices, publishing an editorial that characterised the president’s address as “rich, lyrical, and forward-looking”. In a thinly veiled swipe at Hollande, Le Figaro noted that “Unlike his rival, who indulged in anti-Sarkozy rhetoric, [the president] did not once mention the Socialist candidate’s name or mock his policy proposals.”
Losing the ‘image war’
Some of France’s regional press was comparatively measured in their assessment of the president’s performance. Le Telegramme, a daily from the northwestern region of Brittany, deemed Sarkozy’s “objective achieved”.
“In an election that has seen him weakened by the economic crisis and certain behavioural missteps that his opponents have not hesitated to seize upon,” the newspaper read, “the president looked like a survivor, constantly obligated to fight his way back to the surface and avoid being drowned.” As for Hollande, the candidate was better, according to The Telegramme, than Sarkozy at communicating compassion, thanks in part to “his friendly face and hoarse voice”.
Southern newspaper Le Sud-Ouest agreed that Sarkozy “has lost the image war”, noting that after his speech, Sarkozy could be spotted “hastily shaking hands, as if he were in a rush to get out of there”.
Western French daily, Ouest-France, was more severe with the contents of the sitting president’s speech. The publication’s editorial concluded that “instead of daring to tell the truth, all [Sarkozy] gave us was symbolism, carefully selected bits of information, and caricature….as if our future did not depend on this election”.
Northern newspaper Paris-Normandie criticised both of the leading presidential candidates for what the publication described as a day of political grandstanding: “It’s beginning to look like a school yard during recess”, with “two blowhards…going a bit overboard”, an editorial read.