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Russia welcomes Sarkozy’s victory
07.05.07
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir Simonov) –

The political event held in France recently was not simply a presidential election but a fierce clash between its two political clans represented by polar personalities with contrary programs.
The Montagues of classic right-wing conservatism prevailed on May 6 over the Capulets, the left-wing advocates of the egalitarian state idea.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the first French president with the immigrant background (a son of a Hungarian aristocrat and a Frenchwoman) is occupying Jacques Chirac’s seat in the Elysee Palace after a convincing victory over Segolene Royal, the first woman who has dared run for presidency – 53.06% versus 46.94%. In absolute figures, the difference is slightly over two million votes.
Both rivals belong to the new generation of policymakers and both came up with new solutions to France’s current problems – high unemployment, excessive foreign debt and simmering discontent of the immigrant suburbs. The majority of the voters have found Sarkozy’s ideas more convincing.
In his election campaign, Sarkozy, a 52 year-old leader of the ruling Union for the Popular Movement, has skillfully used the voters’ nostalgia for France’s former grandeur, their disaffection with the economy and the philistine fear of the veil culture’s onslaught.
In his election speeches, Sarkozy often mentioned Joan of Arc and Napoleon, and recalled historical dates like the 1916 Battle of Verdun, which are bound to evoke a response in the heart of every French patriot. Tempting the voters with a radical program of economic reform, he promised to reduce taxes, bring down unemployment to below five percent by 2012 and create incentives for more intensive work. His promises handsomely accommodated both the interests of the traditional bourgeois entrepreneurs and the working people.
Sarkozy had a trump card – he kept saying that all those who object to French values were free to leave the country any time. In some estimates, this idea won him over about 90% of the supporters of the ultra-nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Segolene Royal failed to counter this ideological offensive with her vague talk about the need for national unity and promises that the state would provide lavish social support and help create more jobs.
During televised debates with Sarkozy, Royal alarmed her compatriots with amateurish extremist statements on international issues – a boycott of the Olympic Games in Beijing and a ban on all uranium enrichment in Iran, including civilian-oriented. The general impression from her campaign was marred by ideological squabble within her Socialist Party.
Apparently, Sarkozy won the fight for 6.8 million supporters of centrist nominee Francois Bayrou’s – at least 40% of them decided that Sarkozy was a better choice for the role of the sixth president of the fifth republic.
Be that as it may, but France experienced a historic election campaign. Two bright personalities conducted a political tournament at the highest level. It is enough to mention the amazing interest that they evoked in 44.5 million French voters. The turnout was around 85% – a record in the last half century.
But this record seems alarming. The unusual interest in the elections shows that the French realized that they had to make a choice between two very different politicians with incompatible ideas. So, Sarkozy should be ready to accept that he has inherited a strongly polarized country with almost half of the population feeling less than enthusiastic about him.
Even part of the right-wing political elite considers him an outsider. The left-wing suspect him of harboring a plan to destroy the French social model and institute a police state. The residents of the urban outskirts cannot forget that he labeled them "racaille," or "scum" and said the suburbs needed to be scrubbed. The tensions are still there – Sarkozy’s victory instantly caused unrest in Paris and other French cities and the police had to use water throwers and tear gas. Some public figures, including famous ex-tennis player and now singer Yannick Noah, threaten to leave France only because the hated politician is moving to the Elysee Palace.
Hence, one of the urgent goals for the nation’s new father is to unite a split and unbalanced country. Sarkozy said, “…there is only one France” for him and promised to be “the president of all the French people,” and to “speak for each one of them.”
In Russia, reports from Paris on Sunday received record ratings. Moscow would have preferred to see Chirac elected president for the third time, but since this is impossible, the local political circles do not conceal their satisfaction with Sarkozy’s triumph.
The Soviet and Russian experience shows that Moscow traditionally had better relations with right-wing conservatives than with left-wing democrats. The French Socialists have never been too happy about Moscow – in the U.S.S.R. they had to vie with the Communists, and later they could not accept the ultra-liberal attitudes of Boris Yeltsin with his enthusiastic support of the oligarchs.
A devout daughter of her party, Segolene Royal has repeatedly accused the Russian authorities of all sins. This has led many Russian politicians to believe that if the Socialist nominee won, she would make a substantial contribution to criticism of Russia’s human rights record.
Nicolas Sarkozy is also testing his strength as a critic. But in any event, Moscow thinks that the ruling party’s leader is a more understandable and predictable figure as the French president. It is in line with other changes in the circle of Vladimir Putin’s high-ranking foreign friends – Angela Merkel instead of Gerhard Schroeder, and Romano Prodi instead of Silvio Berlusconi.
These changes have not caused any disaster for Moscow – Russia’s cooperation with Germany and Italy continues to develop successfully, and probably even more steadily than before. Sometimes, pragmatism is more useful than hugs and kisses.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.-0-