First Presidential Primary in France Becomes Sarkozy’s Downfall

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy speaks at a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, June 28
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy speaks at a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, June 28 (EPP)

The political comeback of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy came to an abrupt halt on Sunday night, when he placed a disappointing third in the contest for his party’s 2017 presidential nomination.

Sarkozy had been expected to quality for a runoff next week together with Alain Juppé, a former prime minister.

But Sarkozy’s own former premier, François Fillon, surged into first place, winning 44 percent support with 3.2 million of the votes counted.

Juppé placed second with 28 percent support, followed by Sarkozy at 21 percent. Read more

Russia Divides French Right’s Presidential Contenders

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy meets Russian president Vladimir Putin in his country residence outside Moscow, October 29, 2015
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy meets Russian president Vladimir Putin in his country residence outside Moscow, October 29, 2015 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

A major foreign-policy issue that divides the top three contenders for the French right’s presidential nomination is Russia.

BuzzFeed reports how Nicolas Sarkozy has transformed himself from a Vladimir Putin critic into a Vladimir Putin apologist since he lost the presidency in 2012.

The former president has criticized President François Hollande’s handling of relations with Russia. He argues the EU should suspend sanctions against Russia. And most controversially, the former president has endorsed a referendum annexing Crimea to Russia, a view that puts him at odds with most UN states.

François Fillon, Sarkozy’s former prime minister, has struck a conciliatory tone as well.

He told the magazine Valeurs actuelles this week it was “fortunate” Russia had intervened in the Syrian conflict, otherwise the self-proclaimed Islamic State might have reached Damascus by now. Read more

Former Premiers Knock Sarkozy Out of Presidential Contest

French presidential candidates Alain Juppé, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Fillon
French presidential candidates Alain Juppé, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Fillon (UN Geneva/EPP/Force Républicaine)
  • French conservatives voted in the first round of the Republicans’ presidential primary on Sunday.
  • Out of seven candidates, former prime ministers François Fillon and Alain Juppé got the most support. They will face off in a second voting round next week.
  • Of the two, Juppé is the more mainstream and pro-European candidate.
  • Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, placed third and was eliminated. Read more

Sarkozy’s Hard Line Pushes Center-Right Voters to Juppé

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy makes a speech in Montpellier, February 28, 2012
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy makes a speech in Montpellier, February 28, 2012 (Flickr/Nicolas Sarkozy)

Polls suggest former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing strategy to win his party’s presidential nomination is not paying off.

After the seven Republican candidates vying to replace François Hollande, the Socialist Party incumbent, next year participated in the first televised debate of the primary last week, Alain Juppé, a former prime minister, remained in the lead with almost 40 percent support.

Sarkozy is polling around 33 percent. Read more

Hardliner Sarkozy Gains Ground in Wake of Terror Attacks

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy speaks at a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, June 28
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy speaks at a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, June 28 (EPP)

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been gaining ground in recent weeks on his centrist rival, Alain Juppé, for the right’s presidential nomination.

One poll in June for the first time put Sarkozy ahead with 54 percent support against 28 percent for Juppé.

That seemed to be an outlier. Other surveys put Sarkozy’s first-round support closer to 30 percent against 40 percent for Juppé. But even those numbers are an improvement from March, when Sarkozy’s support languished in the low 20s.

The heightened security atmosphere in France, following a spate of Islamic terrorist attacks, has played into Sarkozy’s hands.

He has yet to formally announce a candidacy. Two rounds of primaries are due to take place in November. The presidential election is set for April and May. Read more

British EU Exit Divides French Presidential Hopefuls

Alain Juppé, then the foreign minister of France, gives a speech at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, February 27, 2012
Alain Juppé, then the foreign minister of France, gives a speech at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, February 27, 2012 (UN Geneva/Jean-Marc Ferré)

The two leading contenders for the French right’s presidential nomination are drawing different lessons from the EU referendum across the Channel.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president who sees the Euroskeptic Front national as the biggest threat to his party, Les Républicains, argues that Britain’s exit is a wake-up call for the rest of Europe. He wants sweeping treaty changes to take power away from the European Commission and create a joint Franco-German presidency of the eurozone.

Sarkozy has previously called for a revision of the Schengen free-travel area to make it harder for immigrants to cross the bloc’s internal borders.

His rival, Alain Juppé, a former prime minister who appeals more to French voters in the center, agrees that Europe needs to take a step back. He has proposed a pause on enlargement and wants fewer rules coming out of Brussels.

But he also argues now is the time to reinvigorate the European Union with new purpose. “For France, Europe doesn’t make sense if it isn’t a political project,” he writes.

That’s the view across the south. Italy and Spain argue the answer to Brexit is “more Europe” whereas Central and Northern European member states, including the Netherlands and Poland, fear that would only aggravate Euroskepticism. Read more

France’s Sarkozy Endorses Two-Speed Europe

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France confer in Berlin, June 17, 2011
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France confer in Berlin, June 17, 2011 (Elysée)

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is hoping to return to power in an election next year, has endorsed the concept of a two-speed Europe in an interview with Le Figaro, saying new treaties “must take into account the existence of two Europes: the Europe of the euro and the Europe of the 28.”

The former ought to share an economic policy and monetary fund, the conservative leader suggested. The outer-tier Europe, including Britain — which Sarkozy wants to keep in the EU — would focus on agriculture, competition, energy and research.

“The rest must return to the states.” Read more