Monday, February 11, 2008

Free Fall

Nicolas Sarkozy's approval rating has dropped below the 40 percent mark for the first time. Sarko stands at 39 pct in the latest IPSOS-Le Point poll. Remarkably, Fillon's rating is 52, up 7 since last month, while Sarko's fell by 5. This suggests that the respondents are dissatisfied not with the reforms but with the president personally.

The erstwhile hyperpresidential regime is thus turning into a new form of cohabitation. What if all the pundits were wrong? What if Sarkozy's ubiquity has finally undermined him, so that Fillon is no longer merely the president's chief of staff and shield (or fusible) but his substitute? What if Sarkozy has inadvertently Chiraquized himself--his worst nightmare? What if he must now cohabit with his own restive party, which goes its own way domestically while leaving Sarko to manage European and international affairs as the custodian of the domaine réservé? Fillon as Jospin to Sarko's Chirac? Fillon as Chirac to Sarko's Mitterrand?

It's a pleasant fantasy, but I don't think it will happen. Of course a stinging defeat in the municipal elections might further embitter the UMP, but more likely it will persuade the party that it needs Sarkozy more than ever. Fillon may be a competent technician who doesn't offend, but neither does he galvanize or mobilize. And with a resurgent post-election PS--or, more realistically, a slightly less moribund PS--the UMP will need the presidential bully pulpit. If Villepin weren't hobbled by his indictment, if Juppé hadn't been crippled by his failure last spring, perhaps there would be talent to lead an internal schism. But I see no other capable contenders. Copé is a lightweight, Devedjian lacks the stature, and Jean Sarkozy is only 21 years old, though I must say, already he has his father's chops and knack for the coup de Jarnac (as he demonstrated this weekend) plus his mother's good looks.* With that head of hair, he could go far. Of course if Alliot-Marie gets the sack after the municipals, she might wander off the reservation, but would anyone follow? I think not.

By the way, if you haven't seen David Martinon's tearful farewell to Neuilly, you should. He said that he had submitted his resignation as Élysée spokesman to the president of the Republic, "who has refused it." A sacking would be too merciful. Martinon must suffer continuation in his present post.

* The picture shows a younger Sarko with Marie-Dominique Culioli, the mother of Jean Sarkozy, who obviously takes his blond coif from the maternal side.


Anonymous said...

Hello mister GoldHammer,

I am not a connaisseur in politics ... however it is also because the reforms have not produced (and are not likely to)(blindly ?) expected results that the French president's behavior has become rapidly and obviously unbearable to a growing amount of the population. If there was more money in the pocket for those who really need it, and for those who pay a great deal of taxes (middle class), maybe he would not have dropped so vertiginously quickly in their minds. It is his politics that the french are rejecting first or all at once with his undignified conduct.

Anonymous said...

Sarko was in great part elected because was seen an hyper-active and a split from traditional politicians. I don't think that he's being rejected for these same reasons at the moment. The Cecilia/Carla stories are driving record sales for so many papers and magazines that the French opinion is probably much happier on that regard with Sarkozy, than with Chirac...

I suspect that his drop in ratings is mainly due to the awfully scrambled communication coming from l'Elysée and the government. Sarko says something in an interview, and the next morning the "Ministre en charge du dossier" dilutes the announcement. Fadela Amara says one thing, Christine Boutin, her boss, says she totally disagrees; Sarko comes in and says that Fadela is right.

With a communication strategy like this how the French people understand what achievements were made or not?