French presidential elections

New Sarkozy era in France

The candidate of the right, Nicolas Sarkozy became the new French President: “We’re back in Europe”. But his Europe is still a Europe behind closed doors.

, by Marta Semplici

All the versions of this article: [English] [italiano]

New Sarkozy era in France

France has a new President. And Europe has got a new representative. Nicolas Sarkozy has been elected sixth President of the Fifth Republic with 53.06 per cent of votes. While his supporters were having party in Place de la Concorde, he, Nicolas, was already addressing his first presidential speech in a crowded salle Gaveau.

The 44.5 millions voters were not made to wait, not like last time on 21 April 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen acceded to the second turn defeating the left candidate, Lionel Jospin. The French people have wished to overcome that bad democratic experience and the participation rate sets a record: with 84.76 per cent is the highest since 40 years. In this way, French citizens have demonstrated to consider politics a way to do changements and they have seen Sarko as the man who’ll do it. She, Ségolène, will try to assert herself as natural leader of the Socialist party. The left candidate has been outdistanced by six points, but she promises “of keeping her battle as a woman of left”. The path will be bumpy because of the opposition of the older party representatives as it has been the case during the campaign.

participation rate sets a record: with 84.76 per cent is the highest since 40 years

Since May 16, Nicolas Sarkozy is not only President of the French Republic, but also the representative of French citizens at will be presiding over the European Council in the second half of 2008. Together with his 26 colleagues and their 27 veto powers, he’ll define the political commitment of the European Union.

Sarkozy’s Europe

This is one of the direct consequences that come from Europe. What he’ll be able to do in Europe and for Europe during his Presidency will be judge by all Europeans. This is an element still more important when it deals with France, a country usually thought to be one of the engines of the European integration. May 29 betrayed that image and Sarko has now to show the opposite. But how could the Constitution impasse be solved? So far, the new President seems to have similar ideas as his former British colleague: no referendum, more pragmatism, doing without the constitutional question to the point of excluding the Charter of Fundamental Rights in any further treaty. His Mini-Treaty proposal appeals very much to the eurosceptic countries but finds an opposition in those that already ratified it, like Italy and Spain. This sounds interesting as it wouldn’t require further popular consultation, weather the referendum is national or pan European. Even the EU President, Angela Merkel, could appreciate it.

European Constitution... a mini-treaty limited to institutional matters.

Sarkozy’s thinking on European issues has been ambiguous during the electoral campaign. Sometimes, he used a very nationalistic language, as for example in the television debate with Ségolène Royal when he claimed for the rising of custom duty – no more a competence of member States since 1969, a mistake that even in Italy the Liga Nord party representatives don’t cease to do. Once again, speaking about the future of the Constitution he said himself opposed to further consultation as French people already said “no”. Some other times, he gave an opener vision, for example proposing to abandon the veto on the immigration policy, while during his first speech after the elections he showed a more positive approach presenting Europe as synonymous of progress and well being but also of protection from current challenges.


However, it’s still impossible for us to predict which will be Sarko’s contribution in favour of Europe and Europeans. Every single French President has always had to turn away from his electoral campaign discourses and it’ll be the same for Sarkozy for the simple reason that interests and political games among 27 member states differ from the French ones. The rest will be done by the results of the next administrative elections of 10 and 16 June as it is not yet sure that Sarko will obtain the majority in Parliament able to follow him in his European policy. If we consider that PS and UDF as well as Le Pen – according to his declaration on Tv5 – are all in favour of a referendum, the match between closed doors Europe and Europe of citizens has still to be played.

Young fans of Sarko, stripping to underpants from joy

Image source: hlong/Flickr

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