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Political Trouble Ahead For Jacques Chirac?

Meet Nicholas Sarkozy.

He just may be the heir apparent to the position Jacques Chirac has held for roughly a decade now, President of France. Sarkozy, who was once Chirac's finance minister, now has his eye on the prize.


Financial Times reports:

Nicolas Sarkozy, France's most popular rightwing politician, has indicated that he will fight for the presidency in 2007 even if it means running against Jacques Chirac, the incumbent who belongs to the same party.

A recent poll puts Sarkozy ahead of Chirac:

...27 percent of the voters support Chirac, whereas 42 percent support Sarkozy and 15 would prefer another candidate.

Much of Chirac's fate depends on the upcoming (May 29, 2005) French referendum on the European Union Constitution, which may indeed be more of a referendum on a decade of government-by-Chirac.

Chirac has had a tough sell on the EU Constitution. In a recent televised debate, the French public rejected Chirac's arguments for approving the Constitution:

...39 percent of respondents found him convincing....

Opponents to the EU Constitution are growing in number, with 56 percent of those surveyed saying they would vote against the referendum, showed a CSA poll conducted before the TV debate and published in today's Le Parisien. That represented a gain of 1 percentage point. Support for the Constitution dropped 1 point to 44 percent, the survey showed.

Indeed, The Guardian explains:

Even with a handpicked audience of 80 young people and celebrity hosts rather than political heavyweights he struggled to make a convincing case.

The French referendum could have far-reaching consequences in global financial markets, as Bloomberg notes:

More than a dozen other surveys in the past month have shown that most French oppose adopting the Constitution, something analysts expect would weaken the euro against the dollar and other currencies.

Those who believe the dollar is in a state of crisis ought to be rooting hard for the French to reject the EU Constitution.

What is most peculiar about French disapproval of the EU Constitution is France's historical drive for European integration. The European Union has all along been France's baby, but the French people seem to be suffering from a sort of post-partum depression, neglecting its own flesh and blood.

The Economist explains more on France's intimate relationship with the EU:

FRANCE was one of the founder members of the European Union. It is half of the “Franco-German” motor that has historically driven European integration. The administrative culture of Brussels is heavily French-influenced, and the EU’s biggest single chunk of spending, the common agricultural policy, is a huge gift to France. Jacques Delors, the most successful of all presidents of the European Commission, was a Frenchman. So was the president of the convention that wrote the EU’s draft constitutional treaty, finalised last year.

So, is French skepticism really about the EU Constitution, or about Chirac? Some of the lack of support for European integration in France is driven by far-left and far-right groups who oppose the draft because its failure would embarrass Chirac and offer an opportunity for political gain. But opposition to the European Union draft constitution is far from a fringe pastime for political hacks.

The Economist:

...there are signs that Mr Chirac is a busted flush: only one in three French trust him, according to polls. Referendums are often used across Europe to give unpopular governments a kicking.

The Christian Science Monitor explains that France is not the only country where the EU is facing an uphill battle:

Serious skepticism over the document's implications is brewing in as many as nine of the 25 European Union countries. The most significant is France, which holds a referendum to accept or reject the constitution on May 29. A stunning 11 opinion polls in the past month all indicate a majority will say "non." The Dutch, who will vote June 1, also look as if they'll spurn it; same for the biggest Euro-skeptics of them all, the British.

All EU countries must ratify the constitution for it to take effect, and what a blow to the growing unity drive a French snub would be.

A rejection by the French, Dutch, and British would be more than a mere setback for the EU, it might derail the integration train for quite some time.

France's International Herald Tribune explains that, if the French reject the EU Constitution, which is highly probable at this point, it "would effectively be dead, and there would be no attempt to resurrect it in the foreseeable future."


And this is where Nicholas Sarkozy comes in. Time profiled him late last year, noting that his agenda would include:

...lower taxes, flexible labor markets, more freedom for innovation and enterprise, more equality for minorities....

"France not only can reform, it's waiting for it."

Not only that, but Sarkozy, unlike Chirac, is not reflexively hostile to America, and, as the Telegraph notes, Sarkozy would offer a truly clean slate for relations between France and the United States:

M Sarkozy adores America and disapproved of M Chirac's handling of the Iraq conflict.

Indeed, Sarkozy was critical of Chirac for his obstructionism and duplicity in the lead-up to the Iraq war; while the American press focused on President Bush's "reckless unilateralism," Sarkozy dared to offer an alternative version of events, one in which Chirac was on a misguided mission to derail the American "hyperpower" and convince the entire world to hate America.

Sarkozy has hammered France's unique brand of socialism, arguing recently that the "French social model" is actually a model for what not to do:

In a speech in southern France, Mr Sarkozy said that with a 10 per cent unemployment rate France should stop saying its system worked better than that of others. "In 20 years both the left and the right have doubled the credits to combat unemployment but we have not produced one fewer unemployed person," he said.

Is Sarkozy France's ticket to regained relevance? Will a failed referendum on the European Union Constitution in France precipitate Chirac's early resignation?

Time will tell.

One thing is for certain: a "non" vote on May 29 would most certainly shake up French, European, and global politics; it would also send major ripples through the global economy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 April 2005 04:24 PM


So there may be hope for France after all?

I never dared believe.

Let's see whether that "Non" vote actually materializes...

Posted by: Christopher Kallini at April 16, 2005 04:57 PM

One thing the French might be recognizing, ...
Adoption of the EU constitution means giving up the UN seat, the permanent UNSC seat, and the UNSC veto, to the EU.
No member nation can hold any opinion, law, or position contrary to the EU, ergo, France, the UK both have to give up (literally, or at least absolutely effectively) those perks. The rest of the nations "only" have to give up the UN seats and a rotation on the UNSC. I would believe that member states to the EU have no more right to separate UN seats than Texas or Califirnia (or Delaware for that matter).

Posted by: Jhn1 at April 16, 2005 05:38 PM

What is most peculiar about French disapproval of the EU Constitution is France's historical drive for European integration. The European Union has all along been France's baby, but the French people seem to be suffering from a sort of post-partum depression, neglecting its own flesh and blood.

Yes, but isn't there a difference between the original idea of the EU (reducing trade barriers, etc.) and this constitution? The 500+ pages thing looks like a micromanaging, committee-created nightmare to me. Perhaps the French like the general idea but not this specific document?

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 16, 2005 08:14 PM

I was counting on France's voice being diluted by Eastern Europe. Damn!

Posted by: PacRim Jim at April 16, 2005 08:40 PM

i blogged on all this days ago...

4/13/05 - and linked to by wrtchard / belmont club:


French chauvinism may soon sink the EU and the euro; (GOOD RIDDANCE!):

Three articles from today's European press make me think that the ENTIRE EU EXPERIMENT will soon be in DIRE need of MAJOR re-tooling -

(1) from the UK TELEGRAPH:

Deutsche Bank warned yesterday that a likely French 'No' to the European constitution could begin a wave of currency speculation across Eastern Europe, setting off a chain of economic disruption. Norbert Walter, the bank's chief economist, said rejection of the treaty in France's referendum on May 29 could halt the eastward expansion of the euro-zone. The Turkish lira is also vulnerable."There could be a wave of currency attacks in the new member states. These countries would then have to raise interest rates. We could see enormous exchange rate swings," he told FT Deutschland. "The problem is that the EU has no strategy for dealing with a rejection of the treaty. People may well question whether the eurozone should have any new members at all," he said. The warning follows eight consecutive opinion polls showing the 'No' side are ahead. An Ipsos survey for Le Figaro yesterday gave a six-point lead to opponents of the treaty prompting a front-page headline: "The No takes root".

(2) from the UK TELEGRAPH:

A top European Union official said France, Italy and Spain faced a catastrophic" slump in exports as a fresh batch of gloomy data hit the eurozone yesterday. French industrial output slumped 0.5pc in February, following a 2.2pc contraction announced last week by Germany. The slide was blamed on high oil prices and the continued strength of the euro against the dollar and key Asian currencies. The French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin admitted yesterday that he now had no hope of fulfilling his pledge to cut unemployment below 10pc over coming months. The yield on 10-year French bonds fell to near historical lows of 3.58pc. The aborted recovery is causing growing alarm at the European Commission and the European Central Bank. Both bodies have slashed their eurozone growth forecasts from over 2pc to 1.6pc in 2005. A senior EU official said the eurozone was now acutely vulnerable to any slowdown in the United States, having failed to generate enough internal demand to sustain recovery.

(3) from the IHT:

At a meeting in Brussels, EU leaders took a strong turn toward entrenching Europe's high-tax social model by backing away from a radical deregulation of the Continent's services sector. They wanted to assuage fears among voters in France and Germany that cheaper workers from the free-market economies of Eastern Europe would steal their jobs.
These articles demonstrate that it's becoming increasingly obvious that the EU is a socialistic bureaucratic mess that's committed more to its own existence than to the betterment of the lives of ordinary Europeans.


Furthermore, if and when the French electorate votes "NO!" to the EU constitution - as NOW APPEARS LIKELY - major banks and major investors from all over the world may BAIL OUT of the Euro currency - creating a major financial crunch, if not DISASTER! (Think of Mexico and the "Asian Flu" financial crises/bailouts - during the Clinton era - and multiply by five!)

Who could come to the rescue? Of course: the decidedly un-continental Texas "yokel" and "unilateralist" American president George W. Bush, and the "ultimate unilateralist" - World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz. How DELICIOUSLY IRONIC!

You know what would be DOUBLY DELICIOUS? If Bush and Wolfie DEMAND that - to get the bailout - the EU WOULD HAVE TO LIBERALIZE their economies and HAVE MORE TRANSPARENCY at the E.U.

This would have the added bonus of actually helping Europe!

As I have written in this blog many many times: Continental Europe needs a Thatcher and they need her NOW. WHY IS THIS INCONTROVERTIBLY TRUE? The ONLY nation in the EU with a robust economy and low unemployment is Britain - and only because of "classically liberal" Thatcher policies: the dismantling of socialism and the welfare state, lower taxes, looser labor/employment requirements for busineses, and a pro-entrepreneurial government. You'd think that the rest of Europe would've noticed the results in Britain, and already emulated Thatcher's policies - (as Blair has!)!?

Only massive denial and cognitive dissonance on the part of the Euro-left - and the strangle-hold they have on their governments - prevents the continent of Europe from having a new birth of freedom and of the prosperity which only freedom creates.

France and Spain and Italy and Germany - and the rest of Old Europe - need presidents and PM's who have the courage of Thatcher, and are willing to suffer unpopularity and the onslaught of non-stop reactionary attacks in order to bring about the REAL CHANGES that Europe so badly needs.

Stay tuned. France votes on May 29... I can't wait!

UPDATE: WELCOME BELMONT CLUB READERS! Please check out a few other posts while you're here. AND: If you're not a regular reader of THE BELMONT CLUB, you should be - EVERYDAY; (wherever his URL happens to be!).

UPDATE: Welcome DISSECTING LEFT readers! If you haven't read DL lately go there NOW for more on the looming problems in the EU(SSR!).

and on 4/15/05 i blogged the following:

Desperate to avoid a humiliating personal and national defeat, Chirac went on TV - in an American style Town-meeting - to promote a "OUI" vote in the upcoming referendum on the EU constitution; (more in a previous post HERE).

From the NYTIMES:

Mr. Chirac's bold move - his first major effort on behalf of the constitution - occurred amid anxiety that next month's referendum will not pass. Opinion polls show increasing opposition to the document, led by many people who worry that a more powerful union will threaten French social benefits and lead to even higher unemployment, now riding at a five-year high of slightly more than 10 percent. [...]

According to a poll conducted for L'Express this week, 53 percent of French voters intended to vote no on the constitution compared to 47 percent who planned to vote yes. A poll for Le Figaro and for Europe 1 radio produced similar results. [...] Many commentators deplored what they said was a blurring of the line between staged propaganda and informed debate.

There was ample skepticism expressed by the audience. From the FT:

Asked by one voter why the unemployment rate was so much lower in the UK than in France, Mr Chirac replied that Britain had social rules that would not be "acceptable to us". Scrambling to reassert his authority, which has been badly damaged by the faltering start to the Yes campaign, the president said that France should be proud of its contribution to Europe and the spreading of civilised values around the world.

However, Mr Chirac's greatest political rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, the populist president of the ruling UMP party, yesterday contradicted the president's upbeat views by saying that the "French social model" was failing the people. In a speech in southern France, Mr Sarkozy said that with a 10 per cent unemployment rate France should stop saying its system worked better than that of others. "In 20 years both the left and the right have doubled the credits to combat unemployment but we have not produced one fewer unemployed person," he said.
People instinctively understand that creating and enabling another corrupt bureaucracy in Brussels will do NOTHING to improve their lives - like by lowering unemployment. That's why the polls have shown for week aftyer week for months now that 53% of France is adamantly opposed to the EU constitution.

Sarkozy (who supports the constitution) at least understands that France's socialist policies just simply do not work, and that they must be replaced with ones that do work, policies like those in the UK and the USA. If Sarkozy wins the next French presidential election in 2007 (and if this is followed by a rejection of the Socialist/Green coalition in Germany and of Zapatero's socialists in Spain), then there is real hope for continental Europe; (if it lasts that long under the onslaught of Islam, bad demographics, a collpasing welfare state, a failed constitution and the resulting weakened Euro. Between now and then the NEW POPE could have a major positive effect on morale in Western Europe - that is: IF the CofC picks the right one).



Most French newspapers give President Jacques Chirac poor marks for his performance in Thursday's live TV debate aimed at producing a Yes vote in the EU constitution referendum. Faced with an audience in which the No camp seemed to be in the majority, the head of state often struggled to get his pro-European case across, throughout a programme which was often confused," says the leading conservative daily Le Figaro. Le Parisien is even less impressed, calling it a "complicated, chaotic and - all things considered - a very disappointing broadcast." [...] The French president stressed that the constitution sets a goal of full employment, and he told his audience that he opposed an "Anglo-Saxon, Atlanticist Europe".

French media has dismissed as unconvincing President Jacques Chirac's efforts to persuade his country to vote for the EU constitution in an upcoming referendum. [...] "In front of an audience in which those favoring the 'No' seemed to be in the majority, the head of state often struggled to make heard his pro-European plea during a muddled broadcast," the conservative Le Figaro wrote on its front page. "Chirac: difficulty reassuring," LCI television said, while the left-leaning Liberation newspapers said Chirac appeared "strained, almost clenched-up" in the meeting. Laurent Fabius, a former Socialist prime minister and leading "no" campaigner accused Chirac of trying to scare voters into backing the charter. "I found Mr. Chirac, like the constitution, long and not very convincing," he told RTL radio. "I was very struck to see Mr. Chirac saying on the one hand, 'don't be afraid', but his main argument was to try to create fear."
The failure of the EU constitution has MAJOR IMPLICATIONS - it will likely cause a precipitous drop in the Euro and put brakes on the momentum that has built up for a SOCIALIST-STYLE EU bureaucracy - both painful but necessary things. MORE HERE. The EU CONSTITUTION NEEDS to be STALLED until Germany and France and Spain - Old Europe - wean themselves off of socialism at home. Then and only then can an EU be effective. Old Europe may become much less socialist after the next round of elections, when socialists Zapatero, Schroeder get tossed ot of office and when Sarkozy takes over from Chirac in 2007.


PARIS (AFP) - Two new opinion polls indicated opposition in France to the European constitution has increased since an impassioned appeal by President Jacques Chirac to back the landmark treaty in a May referendum. The surveys were carried out the day after Chirac's high-stakes two-hour live television appearance late Thursday aimed at jumpstarting the flailing 'yes' campaign. One poll conducted by the CSA institute and which is to appear in Saturday's edition of Le Parisien/Aujourd'hui newspaper indicated 56 percent would vote 'no' in the May 29 referendum, while 44 percent would back the constitution. The figures compare to an earlier CSA poll, taken April 12 and 13, which showed 55 percent opposed the treaty and 45 were in favour. A second poll, released late Friday on the Internet site of Paris Match magazine, gave the 'nos' 56 percent and the 'yes' vote 44 percent. In an earlier survey for Paris Match, the IFOP polling institute had figures of 53 and 47 percent respectively.

Chirac is an ass. He supported Saddam, supports Iran's nuke porgram and supports the EU constitution. Chirac is an ass.


Posted by: reliapundit at April 16, 2005 09:02 PM

Those interested in the EU might look at Forbes magazines current article about "free speech", or the lack of it, under that constitution.

Contrary to M. Chirac, if France rejects the EU Constitution nothing happens. The next day will be Monday, May 30.

I hope they reject this mess of a document and draft a better one. The US had two false starts before we formed a lasting union.

Posted by: Ken at April 16, 2005 11:03 PM

"In 20 years both the left and the right have doubled the credits to combat unemployment but we have not produced one fewer unemployed person," he said.

But, but, but... you HAVE to give out money to the unemployed, or else you're just MEAN. So what if it doesn't do any good...

Somehow, I suspect some version of that argument has (or will) surface.

Posted by: Gekkobear at April 17, 2005 01:46 AM

The integration of a continent-wide EU is not going to be set back by a 'Non' vote by French voters. Every past setback in the effort to promote integration for the past twenty years simply resulted in the European Commission plowing ahead, regardless of the setback.

It's important to realize that the European Commission is NOT elected politicians - the European Parliament is. No one pays any attention to the impotent Parliament, but everyone carefully watches which way the wind blows in the Commission.

They've never wavered! The denial of a European Constitution by voters in France, Denmark, or England, will certainly be a personal political embarrassment for Chirac (there goes the Nobel!), but the EC will simply do what it has always done: 'widen,' 'deepen,' and 'harmonize' in the construction of a continent-wide integrated market.

A 'Non' vote? The EC could not care less. They'll send the politicians back to re-draft another constitution (being sure to exclude D'Estaing, of course), and continue to do what they've been doing for twenty years: build a continent-wide market that can somehow keep up with that other continent-wide market: the USA.

Posted by: A Duoist at April 17, 2005 02:52 AM

A Duoist said what I was thinking. Also, the passive, spontaneous networks between private peoples and businesses will continue. This is what will tie the Eastern European Tigers to old Europe.

That is the true integration, and the foisted, mandated one that the bureaucrats crave is not.

Posted by: Steve at April 17, 2005 09:48 AM