Trying times for Sarkozy: Does the sentence fit the crime for French ex-president?


What can you get away with if you've been a French president? This Thursday saw the second conviction for former leader Nicolas Sarkozy, who's been found guilty of spending nearly twice the legal limit on his failed 2012 re-election bid. With two other cases pending, questions abound surrounding the one-term conservative president and the strength of France's justice system.


Does the punishment fit the crime? Sarkozy is the first former French president to be handed a custodial sentence. However, if the ruling is upheld on appeal, there will be no jail time: he will spend one year under house arrest with an electronic bracelet. Even though he has spent the last decade out of office and mostly embroiled in legal battles, why does Sarkozy still enjoy such a loyal following within the French right? Furthermore, why does he get to whisper in the ear of the current president, the centrist Emmanuel Macron, despite a conviction for bribing a judge and allegations of campaign financing by Muammar Gaddafi? 

More broadly, how much deference is there for former heads of state in a nation which guillotined a king but boasts the EU's only constitution where the president enjoys outsized powers? With another presidential election campaign around the corner, what does this conviction say about France and its institutions?

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