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France’s Election 2012: Secret Dealings Afoot?

Do Nicolas Sarkozy and socialist challenger François Hollande have an understanding?

by
Michel Gurfinkiel

Bio

February 16, 2012 - 12:00 am
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Some observers surmise that there is a secret deal between Sarkozy and Hollande. If Hollande wins, Sarkozy is finished as the leader of the Right unless Hollande says that national unity is needed and that Sarkozy must be an essential part of it. If Sarkozy wins, the same rationale may play in reverse.

Sarkozy has been eager, throughout his mandate, to be as bipartisan as possible (something his supporters resented). He arranged for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the only French socialist enjoying some credit with economists and the business community, to head IMF. (Sarkozy was certainly not involved in Strauss-Kahn’s downfall in 2011, which happened far too early to have an effect on the presidential election.) Sarkozy saw to it that the chairman of the National Assembly’s most important committee, the Finance Committee, should belong to the socialist opposition. Moreover, he appointed Didier Migaud, the Finance Committee’s first socialist chairman, as first president of the Cour des Comptes (Chamber of Accountancy): the all-powerful administration monitoring the State’s finance and budget since the reign of King Philip II August (1180-1223).

Both Sarkozy and Hollande may have in mind Marine Le Pen and the two other outsiders Bayrou and Mélanchon (who now sum up almost 40% of the national vote). Sarkozy’s greatest achievement in 2007 was to have almost consigned Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front to oblivion. His greatest failure, as seen from 2012, is that Marine, Jean-Marie’s seductive and supremely adroit daughter, has revived it with a vengeance. Moreover, she is now as much a champion of the poor than of the ethnic French, and is therefore poised to loot the Left vote as much as the conservative vote. It is in both Sarkozy’s and Hollande’s interest to dispose of her.

For the time being, Sarkozy’s best weapon against Marine Le Pen may just be to bar her from the ballot. Under French law, one needs to be endorsed by 500 elected officials of any rank in order to be validated as a presidential candidate. This was not really a problem until recently, when endorsement declarations were withdrawn from public scrutiny. Now they are open for anybody to check. And quite understandably, many officials are getting cautious about what they may say or do in that respect. It seems that Marine Le Pen has not quite reached the required ceiling.

Many French citizens may criticize her eviction as illegitimate political maneuvering, even if it sticks to the letter of the law. The only way to quench such a rebellious mood would be to resort to the higher legitimacy of national unity.

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Michel Gurfinkiel is the Founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think-thank in France, and a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at Middle East Forum.
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