Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sarkozy's Gamble

Sarkozy rolled the dice at Versailles. The event was the culmination of his first cycle of reforms and made possible by one of them, the constitutional change that allowed the president to address the joint session of the Senate and Assembly. Essentially, when you bracket the attention-diverting anti-burqa paragraph, which has grabbed the spotlight outside France, the message was, "Not to worry." The crisis is over, he implied. Now we can start to think about long-term rebuilding, and for that we'll borrow money with un emprunt national. No rush. Plenty of time for consultations.

Any fallout from the crisis will be limited, the president insisted, to marginal categories. We'll handle it with the same old same old: RSA, aid to the elderly, crumbs for the suburbs. We'll take care of the "bad deficit" by cutting back the bureaucracy, as had been promised all along, and every penny of the "good deficit" will go to lovely new things: durable development, French Silicon Valley, etc. (The fishermen aren't clamoring for fuel subsidies at the moment, so we don't have to bother with irritating questions, such as, Are subsidies for declining industries "good" or "bad" contributions to the deficit.) Some parts of the old reform package have been quietly dropped: nothing has been heard for many moons about the French "ownership society," for example.

The program is thus basically "don't rock the boat, we're on course for re-election in 2012." This supposes that labor remains quiescent, that the number of unemployed won't skyrocket over the next few months, and that the opposition remains in disarray. Sarko has a good chance of winning his bet. But if he doesn't, I don't think he has a contingency plan. It's a rather passive program for a president whose stock-in-trade has always been dervish-like activity. Whether this is because he has no choice or no imagination is difficult to say.

The remaniement was of a piece with the speech. Commentators have been struck by the fact that its scope was larger than had been intimated. Does it matter? Foreign policy and the economy remain unchanged. The palace guard stays as it was. A few disgraced courtiers have been banished, a few ambitious young folks have been taken aboard. François Fillon remains smiling and glib.

At first sight I like Nora Berra. She is plain-spoken, modest, apparently competent, and doesn't wear Dior. But Dati's eviction means that there is no longer a minority in a regalian ministry. On the level of symbolism, that's a step backwards.


Daniel said...

It would be pretty disappointing if Sarkozy won reelection. It wouldn't be a reward for being a good governor, it would be more like a punishment to the French for not being able to muster anyone better.

Cincinna said...

Sarko has just finished the first half of his first quinquinat. His program was daring, comprehensive, and innovative. He has accomplished a great deal, but still has quite a way to go.

In a France that has traditionally resisted change, reform, and restructuring, that is a monumental task.

According to half of French people in the most recent poll, Sarko is doing a good job.


Half of adults in France provide a positive assessment of the way Nicolas Sarkozy is doing his job, according to a poll by BVA published in L’Express. 50 per cent of respondents rate their president’s performance as good.

What is your opinion of Nicolas Sarkozy’s performance as president?

Good Bad
May 2009 50% 43%
Apr. 2009 49% 43%
Mar. 2009 53% 42%

Unknown said...

Don't believe everything you read in polls, Cincinna:

65% des Français se disent «déçus» par l'action de Nicolas Sarkozy depuis son élection et 63% jugent le bilan de ses deux premières années de quinquennat «plutôt négatif». Ce sont les principaux enseignements à retenir d'un sondage TNS Sofres Logica* paru lundi dans le quotidien gratuit Metro.

A la question «tout compte fait, êtes-vous satisfait ou déçu de l'action de Nicolas Sarkozy depuis son élection en mai 2007», 65% des sondés répondent «déçu», 24% «satisfait» et 11% «sans opinion». Le clivage est, évidemment, très fort entre sympathisants de droite (55% de satisfaits et 37% de déçus) et sympathisants de gauche (84% de déçus et 8% de satisfaits).

Cincinna said...

Art, Of course you are right. Polls can be deceiving. How the questions are worded more often than not determines the answer.

"decus" or disappointed, is not the same as "bad"

What I have observed in all the internals on the polls on Sarko is that people don't like him personally, but approve of his policies and the way he is doing his job.

They also concede that no other political figure could be doing a better job at present.

An interesting interactive poll at le Monde's Expression Publique demonstrates that exact phenomenon.The polls change often, and are fun to take.

Excellent polling data from many different sources is updated frequently at

Bon week-end

Cincinna said...


I just checked the poll you cited. It is based on polling done in late April.

Do you have any links to later polls?

Merci en avance,


Unknown said...

BVA poll, conducted May 29-30:

You reversed the good and bad figures, Cincinna: Sarko's approval is 43, disapproval 50.

Cincinna said...

Take it up with Angus-Reid.

Their numbers are the reverse of the pdf.Is Angus-Reid wrong?

According to Angus-Reid Global Monitor: Results published June 12 from a poll taken the final days in May.

President Sarkozy Reaches 50% in France
June 12, 2009
(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Half of adults in France provide a positive assessment of the way Nicolas Sarkozy is doing his job, according to a poll by BVA published in L’Express. 50 per cent of respondents rate their president’s performance as good.

Polling Data

What is your opinion of Nicolas Sarkozy’s performance as president?
May 2009 50%
Apr. 2009 49%
Mar. 2009 53%

May 2009 43%
Apr. 2009 43%
Mar. 2009 42%

Unknown said...

Well, the pdf is from the polling firm itself, so this is the definitive source. In any case, here is another poll, done last week, that shows Sarko's approval at 41%: