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|Once the champion of European integration, Nicolas Sarkozy is now leaning to the far right, maintaining an approach that is not compatible with a candidate of a moderate conservative party. Image Credit: BBC|
The citizens of France will be called to vote for their next president on the elections that will start on April 22, 2012. The candidates for the presidency are the current conservative president, Nicolas Sarkozy, the candidate of the main socialist opposition, François Hollande and the leader of the far right party, Mrs. Marine Le Pen. With roughly a month remaining before the elections, the speeches of all three candidates are already very heated, something quite normal during such electoral periods, where each candidate wishes to gain the support of the public at all costs, even if that may require the use of unrealistic promises or far-reaching aphorisms. In that respect the campaign of Sarkozy is replete with exaggerated speeches outlining his future policy framework that will ostensibly make France a better place for its people. Sarkozy’s campaign slogan is “La France Forte” (Strong France), a phrase that encapsulates the kind of image he wishes to attribute to himself and his campaign; one that, arguably perhaps, reflects the kind of myths, memories and collective images of the French nation.
Though Sarkozy is the candidate of the moderate center right party UMP, close attention must be paid to the far right tendencies that have repeatedly been made manifest by himself or his government during this campaign and in the course of his time in office. These are not at all coincidental. They are the end result of well-thought tactical thinking. In my understanding there are four major issues that led Sarkozy to the decision of adopting views that normally belong only to the ultraconservative part of society, all of which have the common denominator of absorbing the pressure coming from the Front National (the far right party).
These four issues are:
- The revival of Front National ever since the rise to power of its new leader, Mrs. Marine Le Pen, the daughter of the party’s founder and undisputed leading figure (Jean Marie Le Pen),
- The deepening effects of the systemic crisis of the euro that have given rise to unemployment which pushes many young people to the far right,
- The immigration influx that is depicted by the ultraconservatives as an asymmetric threat to local low-skilled workers and French society in general,
- The increasing concerns cultivated by the far right about the deterioration of French power due to European integration and the ongoing stress in the euro area that supposedly erodes French national sovereignty.
Sarkozy is well aware of the fact that the far right party, Front National, can appeal to a considerable portion of his voters, something that he cannot possibly afford as it could cost him the presidential seat, given that he already appears second in most polls behind his main adversary, socialist candidate François Hollande.
This hardliner attitude on migration was the overriding element in one of his recent speeches were he explicitly attacked Greece over its ineffective border control mechanisms, while also asking for stricter rules on the Schengen Area. Yet the adoption of far right views has not been limited to migration, as he has held similar views on economic affairs, such as forcing Greece out of the eurozone, even though he and his consultants are well aware of the fact that such a threat, if ever materialized, would prove detrimental to their country’s interests as French banks are heavily exposed to Greek public debt, either directly or indirectly (for more on the broader issue see TARGET 2 Euro payment system).</div>