Sarkozy’s Final Pitch: “We Don’t Want Socialism”

Facing an uphill battle to win Sunday’s presidential election, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy is trying desperately to cast his left-wing opponent as an old school socialist who will try to tax and spend his way out of the nation’s budget woes.

During an almost three hour televised debate on Wednesday night, the incumbent attacked his Socialist Party challenger François Hollande at length on economic policy, characterizing his plan as one of “crazy overspending.” He specifically cited Hollande’s pledge to hire 60,000 additional civil servants which Sarkozy lamented would only exacerbate France’s fiscal shortfall. Read more “Sarkozy’s Final Pitch: “We Don’t Want Socialism””

Hollande, Sarkozy Advance to Second Round

Incumbent French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his main, Socialist Party rival François Hollande advanced to the second round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday after winning 27 and 28.6 percent of the vote respectively. Official results were released on Monday.

The two were expected to enter a runoff but far-right candidate Marine Le Pen came in a surprisingly strong third with nearly 18 percent of the vote. Turnout was high at over 80 percent.

The incumbent had gained ground on his left-wing challenger in recent months but opinion polls continue to give Hollande a comfortable, double digit lead over the conservative for the second round in the election which is scheduled to take place on May 6.

Hollande notably tried to rally far-right voters to his cause in his victory speech on Sunday night when he ascribed the Front national‘s rise to President Sarkozy’s supposed squandering of France’s national pride. He also said that the conservative had “divided” the country with extremist right-wing rhetoric.

In an appeal to far-left voters whom he hopes will turn out for him in the second round, Hollande promised to put the national interest over “privilege.” Despite his call for “unity,” the Socialist Party candidate has vowed to fight “the world of finance” and proposed a punitive 75 percent income tax rates for millionaires.

Sarkozy reiterated his populist push in his election night speech. “I know that in this world which is moving so fast, the worry of our citizens to maintain their way of life is the central question in this election,” he said, adding that he alone had the “responsibility to protect the French people for the next five years.”

Sarkozy would be the second French president to lose reelection since Charles de Gaule founded the Fifth Republic in 1958. Hollande would be the first socialist to be elected to lead the nation since François Mitterrand defeated the centrist Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in 1981.

This post was updated with new information.

After Five Years of Sarkozy, France’s Economy Still Stagnant

French president Nicolas Sarkozy will likely make it into the second round of his battle for reelection on Sunday, but his popularity is waning. French voters are tired of his erratic and ineffectual leadership and seem to prefer the bland and managerial Socialist Party candidate François Hollande who, according to opinion polls, would win the runoff election scheduled for May 6.

After five years in office, Sarkozy doesn’t particularly like to talk about his record. He does criticize his opponent’s tax and spending proposals, which would exacerbate France’s gaping fiscal and trade deficits and threaten its position as a core eurozone member state. Read more “After Five Years of Sarkozy, France’s Economy Still Stagnant”

Ahead of Election, Sarkozy Advocates Protectionism

French president Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to withdraw from Europe’s open border area on Sunday and advocated a “Buy European” policy for its member governments. The protectionist rhetoric may win him critical right-wing votes in the upcoming presidential election but are likely to invite the ire of European neighbors.

Addressing tens of thousands of supporters in the city of Villepinte north of Paris, Sarkozy said that Europe’s borders had to be fortified to stem the influx of immigrants and cheap products from abroad. He also championed legislative action on the European level to mandate governments to favor homemade products over foreign manufactures and warned that if there wasn’t progress in this area, France would apply such a rule unilaterally.

“I want a Europe that protects its citizens. I no longer want this savage competition,” the embattled French president said. Read more “Ahead of Election, Sarkozy Advocates Protectionism”

Hollande Proposes Tax Hike, Sarkozy Narrows Gap

French president Nicolas Sarkozy narrowed the gap in opinion polls between him and his Socialist rival, François Hollande, for April’s election.

The embattled conservative president, who is fighting for reelection at a time of mounting economic anxiety in France, would win 27 percent of the vote in a first round compared to 31 percent for Hollande according to a recent survey. In the runoff, which is scheduled for May6, the incumbent would trail his opponent by 16 points.

Although he lacks ministerial experience, Hollande is widely liked and promises to increase government spending on education and job training programs. He would renegotiate Europe’s fiscal pact, which requires a deficit under 3 percent of gross domestic product in 2013 and a balanced budget in the long run, and would raise taxes on the very wealthy.

In Paris this week, Hollande proposed to levy a 75 percent tax on incomes over €1 million. He said it was simply a case of “patriotism to accept to pay extra tax to get the country back on its feet again” and argued that it would send “a message of social cohesion” after five years of conservative policies which supposedly favored the rich.

The socialist candidate previously called for the introduction of a 45 percent tax rate on incomes over €150,000. The top income rate is now 40 percent while social taxes that finance health insurance and pension payments are automatically deducted from people’s salaries. There is also a surtax on Frenchmen’s wealth if they own more than €790,000.

The president’s party, which is currently in government, hiked taxes in August and again in November of last year in an attempt to balance the budget. Consumption taxes on liquors, tobacco and soft drinks were raised as was the lowest value-added tax bracket from 5.5 to 7 percent. The top corporate tax is among the highest in the world at 34.4 percent. Total tax revenue was equivalent to nearly 45 percent of France’s total economic output in 2010. Government spending as a share of GDP was nearly 55 percent.

Addressing supporters in the southern city of Montpellier, Sarkozy criticized Hollande’s tax plan. He argued that “tax policies that discourages work, that discourages initiative, isolate France from the rest of the world.”

I believe in paying more to those who work more. I believe in the choice of rewarding talent. Rewarding merit and valuing success are principles that have always been dear to the republic.

Specifically, he proposed a 25 percent pay raise for teachers who agree to work longer hours. This is contrary to Hollande’s promise to hire an additional 60,000 teachers during his first term in office.

The president also hopes to give employers more flexibility to increase working hours in the private sector although he has stopped short of advocating an end to his nation’s treasured 35-hour workweek.

French employees also enjoy five weeks of legally mandated vacation, besides national holidays, and compensatory time off for working overtime. That should amount to some fifty days of paid vacation per year but combined cleverly with “bridges” over workdays that fall between off days, most French actually have a week off nearly once a month.

As a result, French workers are less productive than most of their European counterparts. An hour of work costs $43 on average in France compared to $36 in neighboring countries.

Cameron, Merkel Stand By Their Man Sarkozy

Britain’s and Germany’s leaders seem anxious for their French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, to win reelection in April and May. Despite poll numbers that suggest a crushing defeat for the incumbent French president in the upcoming election, David Cameron and Angela Merkel are standing by their man.

The German chancellor, who, like Cameron, is a conservative and ideologically aligned to Sarkozy, has been explicit about whom she would vote for. “I support Nicolas Sarkozy in every manner because we belong to friendly parties,” she told journalists in Paris earlier this month. In a television interview, the Frenchman said to be “pleased” with Merkel’s support. Read more “Cameron, Merkel Stand By Their Man Sarkozy”

Sarkozy Wants French to Be More Like Germans

Angela Merkel Nicolas Sarkozy
German chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and French president Nicolas Sarkozy confer in Berlin, June 17, 2011 (Elysée)

In a television interview on Sunday, President Nicolas Sarkozy frankly admitted that his country lagged behind neighboring Germany and urged Frenchmen to accept austerity to revive growth.

The embattled French leader, who is up for reelection in April, pointed out that social taxes on salaries in his country were “double” those across the border; that the Germans had three times as many youngsters in apprenticeships; and that France lost half a million manufacturing jobs in the last decade when German employment grew.

“The German economy chose to prioritize jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said. “If it worked for them,” he added, “why wouldn’t it work for us?” Read more “Sarkozy Wants French to Be More Like Germans”

Hope for Sarkozy Yet: Socialist Rival Losing Support

French president Nicolas Sarkozy is gaining ground on his Socialist Party rival, a poll released on Sunday showed. If elections were held today, Sarkozy and his main challenger, François Hollande, would win 26 and 28 percent in a first round of voting respectively. That’s the smallest margin between the two registered yet after Hollande enjoyed a ten point lead over the incumbent in October.

In a runoff, the poll showed Hollande winning with 54 percent of the vote. His second round lead over Sarkozy has been cut in half since the socialists nominated the former party boss for the presidency three months ago. Read more “Hope for Sarkozy Yet: Socialist Rival Losing Support”

Sarkozy Claims “Progress” After Summit Disappoints

Poor Nicolas Sarkozy. This weekend’s G20 convention in Cannes should have been the crowning achievement to a year of French chairmanship of the organization as well as a boost to the president’s chances for reelection next year.

Instead, Greek prime minister George Papandreou stole the spotlights with his plan to call a referendum on Europe’s bailout plan for his nation and China wouldn’t agree to bolster the European rescue fund for future crises.

The G20, in short, accomplished nothing. Sarkozy’s rhetoric suggested otherwise. After world leaders had convened for two days in the southern resort town, he addressed a press conference as if he had just saved the euro again if not the world’s entire financial infrastructure. They had made “spectacular progress,” Sarkozy asserted. “It’s a totally different world, it has progressed in a stupefying way.” Read more “Sarkozy Claims “Progress” After Summit Disappoints”