Friday, March 12, 2010

Reducing Tensions

Figaro Magazine advanced its publication date to Friday in order to allow this special interview with Nicolas Sarkozy time to soak in before Sunday's regional elections. In it, Sarko reflects on his role as president:

En revanche, le sentiment que le président de la République oublie les considérations partisanes au moment où il choisit les personnes qu'il doit nommer, qu'il le fait avec l'exclusive préoccupation de leur compétence contribue à apaiser les tensions toujours à l'œuvre dans un pays comme la France, où les mouvements sociaux peuvent être violents, parce qu'il y existe une tradition de luttes sociales et idéologiques forte. Mon rôle est d'apaiser les tensions pour pouvoir engager les réformes trop longtemps différées.  

This is an interesting rationale, and one that we haven't heard before, as far as I know. Sarkozy used to speak of himself as an actor--the actor--who could effect reform by sheer energy and force of will. Now he describes himself rather as a pacifier, who creates the conditions for reform by preventing the French from giving into their tradition of contentiousness and even violence. He defines success down:

Est-ce un hasard si, depuis trois ans, il n'y a pas eu de drames ni de violence ?

This is reminiscent of shifting American goals in various foreign wars. Maybe we didn't achieve what we wanted, but at least the level of violence is down. But I don't recall violence or even strong ideological difference as the problem with Chirac's presidency, which Sarkozy promised to resolve. It was rather stalemated structural reform, with key interest groups at loggerheads. They still are, although there has been movement around the edges.  And if Sarko has avoided 2005-style urban riots, well, I think we have to credit luck rather than policy, since the great Marshall Plan for the Suburbs hasn't yielded much in the way of results.

1 comment:

CJWilly said...

This is the usual pattern, no?

Giscard is the reformer against the ossified Gaullists, then the guardian of the Republic in the face of the Socialist menace.

Mitterrand is the Socialist of the "Grand Soir", who becomes the status quo candidate against a "neoliberal" Chirac.

Chirac.. you get the idea.

Nonethless, Sarko had gone in with a lot of vigor, and I'm quite surprised he's made the turn so quickly. I don't he can comfortable there with his temperament.