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France

Sarkozy 'to quit French politics' after election defeat

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-05-16

After failing in his bid for re-election Nicolas Sarkozy looks set to leave political life behind him after reportedly telling his aides that "a page has turned". But not everyone believes the book has been closed for good.

Nicolas Sarkozy looks set to leave the world of politics behind him after being ousted from power in Sunday’s presidential election runoff.

After failing to convince a majority of French voters to back his re-election bid Sarkozy became the first president since 1981 to be voted out of office after serving just one term.

After accepting defeat on Sunday night in front of his impassioned followers Sarkozy said he would never again run for the presidency. 

A page has turned

And according to right-wing French daily Le Figaro, Sarkozy, who had the lowest popularity ratings of all previous presidents, will be leaving the rough and tumble of French politics for good.

Le Figaro, which is close to the Sarkozy camp, reported on Monday that the defeated president had gathered together the bigwigs of his UMP party to confirm the news of his departure.

According to the newspaper, Sarkozy told the group, which included Prime Minister Francois Fillon, “for me, a page has turned.”

He then told them he would not be putting himself forward as a candidate for June’s legislative elections.

Sarkozy’s apparent intention to quit politics will come as no surprise to those close to him or even to journalists who have closely followed him during the exhausting election campaign.

He first mooted the idea of leaving office in the event of a defeat to shocked reporters in an off the record briefing during a trip to French Guyana.

“You won’t see me anymore,” he told reporters, who were unsure whether or not his words were just an election ploy to shock voters.

Window still open

But on Monday Sarkozy did joke to colleagues that he would be "renewing my membership card for the UMP and will pay my membership fee”.

And not all commentators believe the 57-year-old will be able to resist the world of politics.

Le Monde journalist David Revault d’Allonnes told France 24 that he would not be surprised if he made a return in the future.

"He’s leaving a door open, maybe even a window he could climb through after breaking into the garden," said d'Allonnes. "Knowing him, it will be hard for him to exit the political game entirely.”

If Sarkozy does retire from political life he will go the same way as former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin who suffered defeat in the 2002 presidential election race.

After suffering the ignominy of being knocked out of the first round ballot by far-right candidate Jean-Marie le Pen, Jospin announced his immediate retirement from politics.

Some political analysts believe the relatively fine margin of Sarkozy’s defeat leaves the door open for a possible return.

“The outgoing president has not excluded himself from the game,” said Christophe de Voogd, a political historian at Sciences Po University in Paris. “It must be said that he has no reason to because losing with almost 49 percent of the votes in the second round is not the same as Jospin losing in the first.

“The parallel is false and absurd,” de Voogd added.

Plea for a quiet life

After five years in the most high-profile position in France Sarkozy reportedly confided to his confidents that all he wanted now was a little bit of peace and quiet.

“I am hoping to be able to live a normal life,” Le Figaro reported him as saying. “I lost the elections but journalists still prevent me from going anywhere alone. It’s impossible to go for lunch with the family so I hope they will leave me in peace.”

But the former president’s marriage to supermodel-turned-signer-turned-actress Carla Bruni may mean he will never quite manage to step out of the limelight.

Date created : 2012-05-07

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