First Presidential Primary in France Becomes Sarkozy’s Downfall
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
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
Sarkozy’s Hard Line Pushes Center-Right Voters to Juppé
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.
Hardliner Sarkozy Gains Ground in Wake of Terror Attacks
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
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
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.