Why Monsieur Sarkozy became a one-term president

Tuesday, May 08, 2012    

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A lot of column inches and airtime will, we assume, be utilised over the next few days analysing the electoral defeat of French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday.

Mr Sarkozy, a conservative who famously turned up at the presidential palace in jogging shorts and shoes on his first day in office five years ago, was defeated by Mr Francois Hollande, an unassuming socialist who, we are told, will likely clash with his fellow European Union (EU) leaders over his plan to renegotiate the bloc’s fiscal pact that many have credited with saving the eurozone from meltdown.

The defeat has given Mr Sarkozy the indignity of being France’s first one-term president since Valery Giscard d’Estaing was defeated in his re-election bid in 1981.

According to wire service reports, pollsters are now attributing President Sarkozy’s election loss to personal style. For instance, his inauguration day jog, while conveying youthful vigour, “ultimately epitomised what many French came to see as self-centred antics unbefitting of a president at a time when economic troubles and persistently high joblessness were on most minds”.

His critics also focused on his lavish celebrations after his victory in 2007 at one of France’s ritziest restaurants on the Champs-Elysees, after which he flew to the yacht of a tycoon friend in the Mediterranean.

However, there’s no doubt that France’s sluggish economy and high unemployment rate — nearly 10 per cent — as well as his cap on income taxes for the rich played a major role in Mr Sarkozy’s defeat. It didn’t help, too, that Standard and Poors downgraded France’s debt rating in January.

What will be interesting now is how the EU will interact with Mr Hollande who, on Sunday, promised supporters that he would reopen talks to focus on growth, instead of imposing deficit-cutting austerity rules endorsed by 25 of the EU’s 27 governments in March.

President-elect Hollande will no doubt clash with Germany on that issue, as Chancellor Angela Merkel has already warned that reopening talks on the pact would be impossible.

How the talks between Mr Hollande and Ms Merkel play out next week will be crucial, as the health of the European economies will likely affect markets around the world.

On the political side, we are sure that analysts will be watching upcoming elections in other jurisdictions to determine whether a one-term domino effect is in play.

For example, we here in Jamaica had our first one-term Government since Independence when the Jamaica Labour Party was voted out of office last December.

On Sunday, our Caribbean correspondent, Mr Rickey Singh, pointed out in his weekly column that speculation was heavy that the governments of Barbados and Grenada will be defeated at upcoming elections, after just one term each.

While there may be a range of factors contributing to these political developments, we cannot overlook the fact that voters are now more astute.

They will, therefore, not put up with nonperformance by their governments and, as we saw in Jamaica, arrogance and disrespect of the electorate.

These are sobering signals being sent to politicians. Success at the polls will depend on who best heeds them.





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