The lessons of Sarkozy’s victory
As he prepares to succeed Jacques Chirac, the centre-right politician outlines his world view.
Mario Canseco – Nicolas Sarkozy waited until his victory speech, in front of a partisan crowd at the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) headquarters in Paris, to discuss controversial foreign policy issues.
Mario Canseco – Nicolas Sarkozy waited until his victory speech, in front of a partisan crowd at the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) headquarters in Paris, to discuss controversial foreign policy issues. The former interior minister, set to take office in the next fortnight, talked about a Mediterranean alliance, committed to the development of Africa, and urged the United States to fight climate change.
The Mediterranean alliance might be reminiscent of an idea first introduced by Spanish president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: the Alliance of Civilizations. Still, Sarkozy’s notions will probably steer clear from these two politicians. Zapatero appeared in a Socialist Party (PS) campaign rally, and the next French president is opposed to Turkey’s entry into the European Union (EU).
In Africa, Sarkozy’s stance appears similar to his predecessor’s. In 2005, French president Jacques Chirac proposed a new tax on airline tickets to finance the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria around the world. The proposal split views in the country, but was nonetheless implemented in September 2006.
On climate change, Sarkozy singled out the United States, while reassuring Washington about long-standing ties. Public opinion has shown the European country is ready to act in order to curb global warming, which suggests an electorate that will be supportive of the new president’s environmental policies.
Still, Sarkozy’s most passionate plea came when discussing gender equality. Sarkozy chose the Bulgarian nurses imprisoned in Libya, the distressing plight of kidnapped Colombian senator Ingrid Betancourt, and women "condemned to wear the burqa" for the last sentences of the address he has been preparing his whole life for. It is unclear what the effect of this wide-ranging analysis of global affairs will have on French foreign policy, but the UMP leader’s words do provide a lesson to his rival, PS candidate Ségolène Royal: It is better to talk about foreign policy after the votes are counted, than before they are cast.
Royal was mercilessly criticized for her discussions about the "sovereignty and freedom of Quebec" and her admiration for the Chinese legal system. In last week’s debate, both candidates were particularly offensive, but Sarkozy managed to stay on message and look "presidential." Royal spent the last few hours of the campaign warning about the "system of brutality" that was sure to be implemented under a Sarkozy-led administration, and compared her rival to U.S. president George W. Bush, claiming he "mimics" Bush’s compassionate conservatism.
In the end, Royal’s campaign echoes John Kerry’s bid for the White House in 2004. The Socialist candidate succeeded not in attracting new voters by moving towards the centre—her highly touted meeting with Union for French Democracy (UDF) leader François Bayrou proved useless—but in making those who were already by her side more and more upset with the scenario of a Sarkozy victory. In the end, Royal stands aside with the 47 per cent of voters she already had when the second round was called.
The exit poll by Ipsos shows that 53 per cent of French women supported Sarkozy, while 47 per cent voted for Royal. This spread prompted some observers to claim that females shunned the PS candidate. This assertion is unfair, for it assumes that women will necessarily vote for one of their own, regardless of policy positions, ideologies, or the usual concerns that should be assessed in a gender-free environment. If anything, the results show that French voters chose to judge Royal as a politician.
A concept that was missing from Sarkozy’s speech last night is "Positive Discrimination." Three years ago, a majority of French respondents was open to changes in the way companies hire their employees, including a quota for immigrants or people of different races in each company, and forcing recruiters to request "anonymous" résumés from job seekers. Chirac and Royal never voiced support for "Positive Discrimination." Now Sarkozy, who came out in favour of this scheme before he became a presidential contender, has the chance to implement it.