About France Category: History
Nicolas Sarkozy, born Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa on 28 Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France January 1955 in Paris, France, is a French politician. He is leader of the UMP, and was elected President of the French Republic on 6 May 2007 after defeating Socialist Party contender Ségolène Royal during the 2007 election, and took office on the morning of 16 May.
Sarkozy is known for his conservative stance on law and order issues and his admiration for a new economic model for France, suggesting that the country should have a more liberalised economy, inspired by the American and British examples. Until 26 March 2007, he served as the Minister of the Interior of France. His nickname Sarko is used by both supporters and opponents.
Nicolas Sarkozy is the son of a Hungarian immigrant father, Pál Sárközy de Nagy-Bócsa (Hungarian: nagybócsai Sárközy Pál; some sources spell it Nagy-Bócsay Sárközy Pál; Hungarian pronunciation), and a French mother Andrée Mallah.
Pál Sárközy was born in 1928 in Budapest into a family belonging to the lower nobility of Hungary. The family possessed lands and a small castle in the village of Alattyán (near Szolnok), 92 km (57 miles) east of Budapest.
Pál Sárközy’s father and grandfather held elective offices in the town of Szolnok. Although the Sárközy de Nagy-Bócsa (nagybócsai Sárközy) family was Protestant, Pál Sárközy’s mother, Katalin Tóth de Csáford (Hungarian: csáfordi Tóth Katalin), grandmother of Nicolas Sarkozy, was from a Catholic aristocratic family.
As the Red Army entered Hungary in 1944, the Sárközy family fled to Germany. They returned in 1945 but all their possessions had been seized. Pál Sárközy’s father died soon afterwards and his mother, fearing that he would be drafted into the Hungarian People’s Army or sent to Siberia, urged him to leave the country and promised she would eventually follow him and meet him in Paris.
Pál Sárközy managed to flee to Austria and then Germany while his mother reported to authorities that he had drowned in Lake Balaton. Eventually, he arrived in Baden Baden, near the French border, where the headquarters of the French Army in Germany were located, and there he met a recruiter for the French Foreign Legion.
He signed up for five years, and was sent for training to Sidi Bel Abbes, in French Algeria, where the French Foreign Legion’s headquarters were located. He was due to be sent to Indochina at the end of training, but the doctor who checked him before departure, who happened to also be Hungarian, sympathised with him and gave him a medical discharge to save him from possible death at the hands of the Vietminh.
He returned to civilian life in Marseille in 1948 and, although he asked for French citizenship only in the 1970s (his legal status was that of a stateless person until then), he nonetheless gallicised his Hungarian name into “Paul Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa”. Paul Sarkozy moved to Paris where he used his artistic skills to enter the advertising industry. He met Andrée Mallah, Nicolas Sarkozy’s mother, in 1949.
Andrée Mallah, then a law student, was the daughter of Benedict Mallah, a wealthy urologist and STD specialist with a well-established reputation in the mainly bourgeois 17th arrondissement of Paris. Benedict Mallah, originally called Aaron Mallah and nicknamed Benico, was born in 1890 in the Sephardic Jewish community of Thessaloniki (Salonica), Greece, which at the time had a Jewish majority.
According to Jewish genealogical societies, the Mallah family of Salonica anciently came from Spain which they had left in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs had expelled the Jews. Resettled in Provence, southern France, the familly had moved to Salonica a century later.
Benico Mallah, the son of a jeweler, left Salonica, then part of the Ottoman Empire, with his mother in 1904 at the age of 14 to attend the prestigious Lycée Lakanal boarding school of Sceaux, in the southern suburbs of Paris. He studied medicine after his baccalaureate and decided to stay in France and become a French citizen.
A doctor in the French Army during World War I, he met a recent war widow, Adèle Bouvier (1891–1956), from a bourgeois family of Lyon, whom he married in 1917.
Adèle Bouvier, Nicolas Sarkozy’s grandmother, was a Catholic like the majority of French people. Mallah, for whom religion had reportedly never been a central issue, converted to Catholicism upon marrying Adèle Bouvier, which had been requested by Adèle’s parents, and changed his name to Benedict.
Although Benedict Mallah converted to Catholicism, he and his family nonetheless had to flee Paris and take refuge in a small farm in Corrèze during World War II to avoid being arrested and delivered to the Germans.
Paul Sarkozy and Andrée Mallah settled in the 17th arrondissement in Paris and had three sons: Guillaume, born in 1951, who is an entrepreneur in the textile industry, Nicolas, born in 1955 and François, born in 1957 (an MBA and manager of a healthcare consultancy company ). In 1959 Paul Sarkozy left his wife and his three children. He later remarried twice and had two more children with his second wife.
During Sarkozy’s childhood, his father refused to give his former wife’s family any financial help, even though he had founded his own advertising agency and had become wealthy. The family lived in a small mansion owned by Sarkozy’s grandfather, Benedict Mallah, in the 17th Arrondissement.
The family later moved to Neuilly-sur-Seine, one of the wealthiest communes of the Île-de-France région immediately west of the 17th Arrondissement just outside of Paris. According to Sarkozy, his staunchly Gaullist grandfather was more of an influence on him than his father, whom he rarely saw.
His grandfather, a Sephardi Jew by birth, was a convert to Catholicism, and Sarkozy was, accordingly, raised in the Catholic faith of his household. Nicolas Sarkozy, like his brothers, is a baptised and professing Catholic. Sarkozy also said recently that one of his role models was former pope John Paul II.
Sarkozy’s father Paul did not teach him or his brothers Hungarian. There is no evidence suggesting that there was an attempt to educate the Sarkozy siblings about their paternal ethnic background.
Sarkozy has said that having been abandoned by his father shaped much of who he is today. As a young boy and teenager, he felt inferior in relation to his wealthy classmates.
He suffered from insecurities (his physical shortness of 1.65 m, 5 feet 5 inches, or his family’s lack of money, at least relatively to their 17th Arrondissement or Neuilly neighbours), and is said to have harboured a considerable amount of resentment against his absent father. “What made me who I am now is the sum of all the humiliations suffered during childhood,” he said later.
Sarkozy was enrolled in the Lycée Chaptal, a state-funded (public) middle and high school in the 8th arrondissement, where he failed his sixième (equivalent to sixth grade in the US and Year 7 in England and Wales).
His family then sent him to the Cours Saint-Louis de Monceau, a private Catholic middle and high school in the 17th arrondissement, where he was reportedly a mediocre pupil but where he nonetheless obtained his baccalauréat in 1973. Later he obtained a bachelor’s degree in law from the Université Paris X Nanterre.
He attended the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (more commonly known as Sciences Po), but did not graduate because he failed his exam in English . He enrolled himself at Nanterre University in law, already run down some years after May ’68.
After passing the bar exam, he became a lawyer specializing in French business law and family law, skills which he would later put to use in divorcing his first wife and helping his mother take legal action against his father in order to raise alimony.
Sarkozy declared to the Constitutional Council disposing of two million euros, mostly in life insurances.
Nicolas Sarkozy speaking at the congress of his partyHe is generally recognized by the right and left as a highly skilled politician and striking orator.
Supporters of Sarkozy within France emphasize his charisma, political innovation and willingness to “make a dramatic break” amidst mounting disaffection against “politics as usual”; some see him as wanting to depart from traditional French social and economic principles in favor of American-style economic reform. Overall, he is generally considered to be somewhat more pro-U.S. than most French politicians.
Since November 2004, he has been president of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), France’s major right political party, and he was Minister of the Interior in the government of Dominique de Villepin, with the honorific title of Minister of State, making him effectively the number three man in the French State after President Jacques Chirac and the prime minister.
His ministerial responsibilities included law enforcement and working to co-ordinate relationships between the national and local governments, as well as Minister of Cults (in this guise he created the CFCM, French Council of Muslim Faith). Previously, he was a deputy to the French National Assembly.
He was forced to resign this position in order to accept his ministerial appointment. He previously also held several ministerial posts, including Finance Minister.
Sarkozy’s political career began at the age of 22, when he became a city councillor in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a wealthy and exclusive western suburb of Paris (in the Hauts-de-Seine département). A member of the Neo-Gaullist party RPR, he went on to be elected mayor of that town, after the death of the incumbent mayor Achille Peretti.
Sarkozy had been close to Peretti, as his mother was Peretti’s secretary. The senior RPR politician in the time, Charles Pasqua, wanted to become mayor, and asked Sarkozy to organise his campaign. Instead Sarkozy profited from a short illness of Pasqua to propel himself into the office of mayor. He was the youngest ever mayor of any town in France with a population of over 50,000.
He served from 1983 to 2002. In 1988, he became a deputy in the National Assembly.
In 1993, Sarkozy was in the national news for personally negotiating with the “Human Bomb”, a man who had taken small children hostage in a kindergarten in Neuilly. The “Human Bomb” was killed after two days of talks by policemen of the RAID, who entered the school stealthily while the attacker was resting.
From 1993 to 1995, he was Minister for the Budget and spokesman for the executive in the cabinet of Prime Minister Édouard Balladur. Throughout most of his early career, Sarkozy had been seen as a protégé of Jacques Chirac. However, in 1995 he spurned Chirac and backed Balladur for President of France.
After Chirac won the election, Sarkozy lost his position as Minister for the Budget and found himself outside the circles of power. It is widely believed that ever since 1995 Chirac has considered Sarkozy’s siding with Balladur as a form of treason, and that the two men now loathe one another.
However, he came back after the right-wing defeat at the 1997 parliamentary election, as number 2 of the RPR. When the party leader Philippe Séguin resigned, in 1999, he took the lead of the Neo-Gaullist party. But it obtained its worst result at the 1999 European Parliament election, winning 12.7% of the votes, less than the dissident Rally for France of Charles Pasqua. Sarkozy lost the RPR leadership.
In 2002, however, after his re-election as President of the French Republic (see French presidential election, 2002), Chirac appointed Sarkozy as French Minister of the Interior in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, despite the widely acknowledged friction between the two.
Following Jacques Chirac’s 14th of July keynote speech on road safety Sarkozy as interior minister pushed through new legislation leading to the mass purchase of speed cameras and a campaign to increase the awareness of dangers on the roads.
Following the cabinet reshuffle of 31 March 2004, Sarkozy was moved to the position of Finance Minister. Tensions continued to build between Sarkozy and Chirac and within the UMP party, as Sarkozy’s intentions of becoming head of the party after the resignation of Alain Juppé became clear.
It became increasingly apparent that Sarkozy would go on to seek the presidency in 2007; in an often-repeated comment made on television channel France 2, when asked by a journalist whether he thought about the presidential election when he shaved in the morning, Sarkozy commented, “not just when I shave”.
In November 2004 after party elections, Sarkozy became leader of the UMP with 85% of the vote. In accordance with an agreement with Chirac, he resigned his position as minister. Sarkozy’s ascent was marked by the division of UMP between sarkozystes, such as Sarkozy’s “first lieutenant”, Brice Hortefeux, and Chirac loyalists, such as Jean-Louis Debré.
Sarkozy was made Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) by President Chirac in February 2005. He was re-elected on 13 March 2005 to the National Assembly (as required by the constitution, he had had to resign as a deputy when he had become minister in 2002).
On 31 May 2005 the main French news radio station France Info reported a rumour that Sarkozy was to be reappointed Minister of the Interior in the government of Dominique de Villepin without resigning from the UMP leadership. This was confirmed on 2 June 2005, when the members of the government were officially announced.
First term as Minister of the Interior
Nicolas Sarkozy, here with then prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, meeting with bicycle-mounted officers of the French National Police.Towards the end of his first term as Minister of the Interior, in 2004, Sarkozy was the most popular and also the most unpopular conservative politician in France, according to polls conducted at the beginning of 2004.
His “tough on crime” policies, which included increasing the police presence on the streets and introducing monthly crime performance ratings, were popular with many and unpopular for many others.
However, he was criticized for putting forward legislation which can be questioned as an infringement on civil rights, and adversely affected disadvantaged sections of the population.
Sarkozy has sought to ease the sometimes tense relationships between the general French population and the Muslim community. Unlike the Catholic Church in France with their official leaders or Protestants with their umbrella organisations, the French Muslim community had a lack of structure with no group that could legitimately deal with the French government on their behalf.
Sarkozy felt that the foundation of such an organisation was desirable. He supported the foundation in May 2003 of the private non-profit Conseil français du culte musulman (“French Council of Muslim Worship”), an organisation meant to be representative of French Muslims.
In addition, Sarkozy has suggested amending the 1905 law on the separation of Church and State, mostly in order to be able to finance mosques and other Muslim institutions with public funds so that they are less reliant on money from outside of France.
Minister of Finance
During his short appointment as Minister of Finance, Sarkozy was responsible for introducing a number of policies. The degree to which this reflected libéralisme (a hands-off approach to running the economy) or more traditional French state dirigisme (intervention) is controversial. He resigned the day following his election as president of the UMP.
In September 2004, Sarkozy oversaw the reduction of the government ownership stake in France Télécom from 50.4% to 41%.
Sarkozy backed a partial nationalisation of the engineering company Alstom decided by his predecessor when the company was exposed to bankruptcy in 2003.
Sarkozy reached an agreement with the major retail chains in France to concertedly lower prices on household goods by an average of 2%; the success of this measure is disputed, with studies suggesting that the decrease was closer to 1%.
Taxes: Sarkozy avoided taking a position on the ISF (solidarity tax on wealth). This is considered an ideological symbol by many on the Left and Right. Some in the business world and on the Liberal Right, such as Alain Madelin, wanted it abolished.
For Sarkozy, that would have risked being categorised by the Left as a gift to the richest classes of society at a time of economic difficulties. So Sarkozy preferred reducing the ISF with the bouclier fiscal.
Second term as Minister of the Interior
Sarkozy as Minister of the Interior with American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, after their bilateral meeting in Washington D.C.
During his second term at the Ministry of the Interior, Sarkozy was initially more discreet about his ministerial activities: instead of focusing on his own topic of law and order, many of his declarations addressed wider issues, since he was expressing his opinions as head of the UMP party.
Main article: Response to the 2005 civil unrest in France
However, the civil unrest in autumn 2005 put law enforcement in the spotlight again. Sarkozy was accused of having provoked the unrest by calling young delinquents from housing projects “rifraff” (“racaille”) in Argenteuil near Paris.
After the accidental death of two youths, which sparked the riots, Sarkozy first blamed it on “hoodlums” and gangsters. These remarks were sharply criticised by many on the left wing and by a member of his own government, Delegate Minister for Equal Opportunities Azouz Begag.
After the rioting, he made a number of announcements on future policy: selection of immigrants, greater tracking of immigrants, and a reform on the 1945 ordinance government justice measures for young delinquents.
Action as UMP’s leader
Sarkozy currently is the president of UMP, the French conservative party, elected with 85% of the vote. During his presidency, the number of members has significantly increased. In 2005, he supported a “yes” vote in the French referendum on the European Constitution.
Throughout 2005, Sarkozy became increasingly vocal in calling for radical changes in France’s economic and social policies. These calls culminated in an interview with Le Monde on 8 September 2005, during which he claimed that the French had been misled for 30 years by false promises, and denounced what he considers to be unrealistic policies.
Among other issues:
- he called for a simplified and “fairer” taxation system, with fewer loopholes and a maximum taxation rate (all direct taxes combined) at 50% of revenue;
- he approved measures reducing or denying social support to unemployed workers who refuse work offered to them;
- he pressed for a reduction in the budget deficit, claiming that the French state has been living off credit for some time.
Such policies are what are called in France libéral (that is, in favour of laissez-faire economic policies, although this judgment is made by French standards) or, with a pejorative undertone, ultra-libéral. Sarkozy rejects this label of libéral and prefers to call himself a pragmatist instead.
Sarkozy opened another avenue of controversy by declaring that he wanted a reform of the immigration system, with quotas designed to admit the skilled workers needed by the French economy.
He also wants to reform the current French system for foreign students, saying that it enables foreign students to take open-ended curricula in order to obtain residency in France; instead, he wants to select the best students to the best curricula in France.
In early 2006, the French parliament adopted a controversial bill known as DADVSI, which reforms French copyright law. Since his party was divided on the issue, Sarkozy stepped in and organised meetings between various parties involved.
Later, groups such as the Odebi League and EUCD.info alleged that Sarkozy personally and unofficially supported certain amendments to the law, which enacted strong penalties against designers of peer-to-peer systems.
Generally speaking, Sarkozy is a bête noire of the left (see below), and is also criticized by some on the right, most vocally by the supporters of Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin, such as Jean-Louis Debré, but also by social Catholics such as Christine Boutin; Boutin however, in the end, gave up her presidential bid and became a political advisor to Sarkozy.
Critics have accused him of being an authoritarian demagogue, ready to trade away civil liberties for political gains. Some of these accusations are echoed by French civil rights organisations. He is also accused by the Left of being a populist who favours far-right ideas.
Since his famous Kärcher remark, Nicolas Sarkozy has been lampooned about his fondness for cleaning out the riff-raff; here, electoral posters of Sarkozy were posted on a Kärcher car wash.
In the midst of a tense period and following a shooting that killed an 11-year-old boy in the banlieue of La Courneuve in June 2005, he quoted a local resident and vowed to clean the area out “with a Kärcher” (nettoyer la cité au Kärcher, Kärcher being a well-known brand of pressure cleaning equipment), and two days before the 2005 Paris riots he referred to the rioters as voyous (thugs) and racaille, a slang term which can be translated into English as dregs or riff-raff, this being criticised as being too hard on the rioters.
Separation of powers
As Minister of the Interior, Sarkozy has made bold statements following heinous crimes reported in the media. As a consequence, he has been accused in certain cases of failing to respect the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary by trying to apply pressure in certain cases.
Most famously, he was criticised, not only by the left-wing Syndicat de la magistrature judges’ union, but also by the centrist Union syndicale des magistrats for attacks on the independence of the judiciary.
In September 2005 some youths were acquitted of an arson attack on a police station in Pau for lack of proof and Sarkozy was accused of having pushed for a hasty inquiry—Sarkozy had vowed that the perpetrators would be arrested within three months.
On 22 June 2005, he announced to law enforcement officials that he had questioned the Minister of Justice about the future of “the judge” who had freed a man on parole, enabling him to commit a murder. These comments were criticised by both moderate and left-wing magistrates since the decision had been made by three judges.
Sarkozy has personal friendships with some of the most powerful figures in the French business world; for example, Martin Bouygues (from the Bouygues group, owner of the TF1 channel, as well as telecommunications and public works companies) and Bernard Arnault (from LVMH) were his marriage witnesses.
His brother, Guillaume, is a senior executive of the MEDEF, the foremost business union in France; in 2005, he renounced running for the top position of that union because he said he did not want to hinder his brother’s political career.
Religion and state
Sarkozy, a Catholic, has caused controversy because of his views on the relationship between religion and state. In 2004, he published a book called La République, les religions, l’espérance (“The Republic, Religions, and Hope”), in which he argued that the young should not be brought up solely on secular or republican values.
He also advocated reducing the separation of church and state, arguing for the government subsidy of mosques in order to encourage Islamic integration into French society. He flatly opposes financing of religious institutions with funds from outside France.
After meeting with Tom Cruise, Sarkozy was criticised by some for meeting with a member of the Church of Scientology, which is classified as a dangerous sect in France.
War in Iraq
Nicolas Sarkozy, like almost all French politicians, disapproved of the US-led invasion of Iraq, but was nonetheless critical of the way Jacques Chirac and his foreign minister Dominique de Villepin expressed France’s opposition to the war.
Talking at the French-American Foundation in Washington, D.C. on 12 September 2006, he denounced what he called the “French arrogance” and said: “It is bad manners to embarrass one’s allies or sound like one is taking delight in their troubles.” He also added: “We must never again turn our disagreements into a crisis.”
This speech, given without the assent of the French president by a member of the French government traveling abroad (Sarkozy was still Minister of the Interior), was criticized by many in France. Jacques Chirac reportedly said in private that Sarkozy’s speech was “appalling” and “a shameful act”.
Regularisation of immigrant families
Sarkozy issued a memorandum (the ‘circulaire Sarkozy’) on 13 June 2006. In this decision sent to all prefects of France (his representatives in the provinces), he proposed to hand some immigration papers to immigrant families with children integrated in French schools.
A strict series of conditions were listed in order to accept the regularisation of the situation of these families (proofs of integration in the country, proof of job, etc.). This offer attracted a large number of applications (around 25,000) handed to police services, usually under the advice of charities of specialised social associations.
Most of the files were refused because the minister had fixed, beforehand, a number of “about 6000” files to be accepted, whatever happened.
The remaining 20,000 or so people have however been carefully registered in police files, including their personal address and child’s school (one of the criteria was providing school certificates). Some consider the situation to be a possible ‘trap’ for integrated immigrants.
View on genetic predispositions
A few weeks before the first round of the 2007 presidential elections, Nicolas Sarkozy said during an interview with philosopher Michel Onfray that he thinks disorders such as paedophilia and depression have a genetic as well as social basis, famously stating “I don’t agree with you,
I’d be inclined to think that one is born a paedophile, and it is actually a problem that we do not know how to cure this disease”; he also claimed that suicides among youth was linked to genetic predispositions by stating, “I don’t want to give parents a complex.
It’s not exclusively the parents’ fault every time a youngster commits suicide.” These claims were criticized by a few scientists, including geneticist Axel Kahn.
Marriages, divorce and separation
On 23 September 1982 he married Corsican-born Marie-Dominique Culioli, daughter of a pharmacist from Vico (a village north of Ajaccio, Corsica). They have two sons, Pierre (born in 1985) and Jean (born in 1987).
Sarkozy’s marriage witness was the prominent right wing politician Charles Pasqua, later to become a political opponent. Sarkozy divorced Culioli in 1996, although they had already been separated for some years. Culioli continues to be a practicing Catholic and a charismatic and affirms that she still prays fervently for Sarkozy.
As mayor of Neuilly, Sarkozy met Cécilia Ciganer-Albeniz (great-granddaughter of composer Isaac Albéniz and of a Russian father) At the time, she was then married to TV host Jacques Martin. In 1989, Ciganer-Albeniz left Martin for Sarkozy.
After a divorce lasting four months, Sarkozy married her in October 1996 (with witnesses Martin Bouygues and Bernard Arnault). They have one son, Louis, born in 1997.
Between 2002 and 2005, the couple often appeared together on public occasions, with Ciganer-Albeniz acting as a sort of chief aide for her husband. On 25 May 2005, however, the Swiss newspaper Le Matin revealed that Ciganer-Albeniz had left Sarkozy for French-Moroccan national Richard Attias, head of Publicis in New York.
There were other accusations of a private nature in Le Matin. This led Sarkozy to sue the paper.
In late 2005, the press reported that Sarkozy was in a relationship with Anne Fulda, a journalist from Le Figaro. Finally, in January 2006, a reconciliation with Ciganer-Albeniz took place.
Ciganer-Albeniz and Sarkozy are currently believed to be living together. In early 2006, Sarkozy suggested to the press that he had welcomed Ciganer-Albeniz back from the USA, although the exact circumstances of the reconciliation are not known.
Candidacy for President
On 14 January 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy was chosen by the UMP to be its candidate in the 2007 presidential election. Sarkozy, who was running unopposed, won 98% of the votes. Of the 327,000 UMP members who could vote, 69% participated in the online ballot.
In February 2007 Sarkozy appeared on a televised debate on TF1 where he expressed his support for affirmative action for minorities and the freedom to work overtime, but his opposition to homosexual marriage.
On 7 February, Nicolas Sarkozy finally decided in favour of a projected second, non-nuclear, aircraft carrier for the national Navy (adding to the nuclear Charles de Gaulle), during an official visit in Toulon with Defence Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie. “This would allow permanently having an operational ship, taking into account the constraints of maintenance”, he explained.
This new view on the second aircraft carrier issue comes in conflict with a January report, where he was against a second carrier.
On 21 March President Jacques Chirac announced his support for Sarkozy, adding that he had his vote. Chirac pointed out that Sarkozy had been chosen as presidential candidate for the ruling UMP party, and said: “So it is totally natural that I give him my vote and my support.” To focus on his campaign, Sarkozy stepped down as interior minister on 26 March.
During the campaign, rival candidates had accused Sarkozy of being a “candidate for brutality” and of presenting overly hardline views about France’s future. He was also criticized by opponents for allegedly courting conservative voters in policy-making in a bid to capitalise on right-wing sentiments among some communities.
However, his popularity was sufficient to see him polling as the frontrunner throughout the later campaign period, consistently ahead of rival Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal.
The first round of the presidential election was held on 22 April 2007. Nicolas Sarkozy came in first with 31.18% of the votes, ahead of Ségolène Royal of the Socialists with 25.87%. In the second round, Sarkozy came out on top to win the election with 53.06% of the votes ahead of Ségolène Royal with 46.94%.
In his speech immediately following the announcement of the election results, Sarkozy stressed the need for France’s modernisation, but also called for national unity, mentioning that Royal was in his thoughts. In that speech, he claimed “The French have chosen to break with the ideas, habits and behaviour of the past. I will restore the value of work, authority, merit and respect for the nation.”
Presidency (2007 – 2012 )
On 6 May 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy became the sixth person to be elected President of the fifth Republic (which was established in 1958), and the 23rd president in French history.
The official transfer of power from Chirac to Sarkozy took place on 16 May at 11:00 am (9:00 UTC) at the Élysée Palace, where he was given the authorization codes of the French nuclear arsenal. In the afternoon, the new President flew to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Under Sarkozy’s government, François Fillon replaced Dominique de Villepin as Prime Minister. Sarkozy appointed Bernard Kouchner, the left-wing founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, as his foreign minister, leading to Kouchner’s expulsion from the Socialist Party.
In addition to Kouchner, three more Sarkozy ministers are from the left, including Eric Besson, who served as Ségolène Royal’s economic adviser at the beginning of her campaign. Sarkozy also appointed seven women to form a total cabinet of 15; one, Justice Minister Rachida Dati, is the first woman of Northern African origin to serve in a French cabinet.
Of the 15, two attended the elite École nationale d’administration (ENA). The ministers were reorganised, with the controversial creation of a ‘Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Co-Development’—given to his right-hand man Brice Hortefeux—and of a ‘Ministry of Budget, Public Accounts and Civil dministration’—handed out to Éric Wœrth, supposed to prepare the replacement of only a third of all civil servants who retire. However, after the 17 June parliamentary elections, the Cabinet has been adjusted to 15 ministers and 16 deputy ministers, totalling 31 officials.
Shortly after taking office, Sarkozy began negotiations with Colombian president Álvaro Uribe and the left-wing guerrilla FARC, regarding the release of hostages held by the rebel group, especially Franco-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt. According to some sources, Sarkozy himself asked for Uribe to release FARC’s “chancellor” Rodrigo Granda. Furthermore, he announced on 24 July 2007, that French and European representatives had obtained the extradition of the Bulgarian nurses detained in Libya to their country.
In exchange, he signed with Muammar Gaddafi security, health care and immigration pacts—and a $230 million (168 million euros) MILAN antitank missile sale. The contract was the first made by Libya since 2004, and was negotiated with MBDA, a subsidiary of EADS. Another 128 millions euros contract would have been signed, according to Tripoli, with EADS for a TETRA radio system. The Socialist Party (PS) and the Communist Party (PCF) criticised a “state affair” and a “barter” with a “Rogue state”. The leader of the PS, François Hollande, requested the opening of a parliamentary investigation.
On 8 June 2007, during the 33rd G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Sarkozy set a goal of reducing French CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2050 in order to prevent global warming. He then pushed forward Socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn as European nominee to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Critics alleged that Sarkozy proposed to nominate Strauss-Kahn as managing director of the IMF to deprive the Socialist Party of one of its more popular figures. In 2010, a study of Yale and Columbia universities ranked France the most respectful country of the G20 concerning the environment.
The Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), Sarkozy’s party, won a majority at the June 2007 legislative election, although by less than expected. In July, the UMP majority, seconded by the Nouveau Centre, ratified one of Sarkozy’s electoral promises, which was to partially revoke the inheritance tax. The inheritance tax formerly brought eight billion euros into state coffers.
Sarkozy’s UMP majority prepared a budget that reduced taxes, in particular for upper middle-class people, allegedly in an effort to boost GDP growth, but did not reduce state expenditures. He was criticised by the European Commission for doing so.
Sarkozy broke with the custom of amnestying traffic tickets and of releasing thousands of prisoners from overcrowded jails on Bastille Day, a tradition that Napoleon had started in 1802 to commemorate the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution.
Sarkozy’s government issued a decree on 7 August 2007 to generalise a voluntary biometric profiling program of travellers in airports. The program, called ‘Parafes’, was to use fingerprints. The new database would be interconnected with the Schengen Information System (SIS) as well as with a national database of wanted persons (FPR). The Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL) protested against this new decree, opposing itself to the recording of fingerprints and to the interconnection between the SIS and the FPR.
On 21 July 2008, the French parliament passed constitutional reforms which Sarkozy had made one of the key pledges of his presidential campaign. The vote was 539 to 357, one vote over the three-fifths majority required; the changes are not yet finalized. They would introduce a two-term limit for the presidency, and end the president’s right of collective pardon.
They would allow the president to address parliament in-session, and parliament, to set its own agenda. They would give parliament a veto over some presidential appointments, while ending government control over parliament’s committee system. He has claimed that these reforms strengthen parliament, while some opposition socialist lawmakers have described it as a “consolidation of a monocracy”.
On 23 July 2008, parliament voted the “loi de modernisation de l’économie” (Modernization of the Economy Law) which loosened restrictions on retail prices and reduced limitations on the creation of businesses. The Government has also made changes to long-standing French work-hour regulations, allowing employers to negotiate overtime with employees and making all hours worked past the traditional French 35-hour week tax-free.
However, as a result of the global financial crisis that came to a head in September 2008, Sarkozy has returned to the state interventionism of his predecessors, declaring that “laissez-faire capitalism is over” and denouncing the “dictatorship of the market”. Confronted with the suggestion that he had become a socialist, he responded: “Have I become socialist? Perhaps.” He has also pledged to create 100,000 state-subsidised jobs. This reversion to dirigisme is seen as an attempt to stem the growing popularity of revolutionary socialist leader Olivier Besancenot.
Sarkozy wielded special international power when France held the rotating EU Council Presidency from July 2008 through December 2008. Sarkozy has publicly stated his intention to attain EU approval of a progressive energy package before the end of his EU Presidency. This energy package would clearly define climate change objectives for the EU and hold members to specific reductions in emissions. In further support of his collaborative outlook on climate change, Sarkozy has led the EU into a partnership with China.
On 6 December 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy, as part of France’s then presidency of the Council of the EU, met the Dalai Lama in Poland and outraged China, which has announced that it would postpone the China-EU summit indefinitely.
On 3 April 2009, at the NATO Summit in Strasbourg, Sarkozy announced that France would offer asylum to a former Guantanamo captive. “We are on the path to failure if we continue to act as we have”, French President Nicolas Sarkozy cautioned at the U.N. Climate Summit on 22 September 2009.
On 27 February 2011, Sarkozy did for the 10th time of his presidency a government reshuffle.
On 29 June 2011, he did an 11th government reshuffle, after the resignation of Christine Lagarde, who was appointed to head the International Monetary Fund. Five new ministers were appointed.
On 5 January 2009, Sarkozy called for a ceasefire plan for the Gaza Strip Conflict. The plan, which was jointly proposed by Sarkozy and Egyptian ex-President Hosni Mubarak envisions the continuation of the delivery of aid to Gaza and talks with Israel on border security, a key issue for Israel as it says Hamas smuggles its rockets into Gaza through the Egyptian border. Welcoming the proposal, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a “ceasefire that can endure and that can bring real security”.
Involvement in Libya
Muammar Gaddafi’s official visit to Nicolas Sarkozy in December 2007 has triggered a strong wave of protests against the President in France.
In March 2011, after having been criticized for his unwillingness to support the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, and persuaded by the philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy to have France actively engage against the forces of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, Nicolas Sarkozy was amongst the first Heads of State to demand the resignation of Gaddafi and his government, which was then fighting a civil war in Libya.
On 10 March 2011, Nicolas Sarkozy welcomed to the Elysee Palace, three emissaries from the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), brought to him by Bernard-Henri Levy who mediated at the meeting. Nicolas Sarkozy promised them a no-fly zone would be imposed on Gaddafi’s aeroplanes. He also promised them France’s military assistance.
On 17 March 2011, at the behest of France, resolution 1973 was adopted by the Security Council of the United Nations, permitting the creation of a “no fly” zone over Libya, and for the undertaking of “necessary measures” for the protection of the country’s civilian population.
On 19 March 2011, Nicolas Sarkozy officially announced the beginning of a military intervention in Libya, with France’s participation. These actions of Nicolas Sarkozy were favorably received by the majority of the French political class and public opinion.