Financial challenges pose threat to Sarkozy

Updated: 2012-01-29 10:29


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PARIS - Posing as French protector, French President Nicolas Sarkozy snatched a place at the Elysee Palace in 2007 after promising voters to bring to them security, work and wealth.

Five years later, a deteriorating economic climate marked by high joblessness and weak purchasing power raised questions about Sarkozy's ability to secure a second mandate.

Financial challenges pose threat to Sarkozy

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy waits for a guest at the Elysee Palace in Paris Janu 26, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

To his followers, the 57-year-old head of state is working hard to propose "remedies for the country" to solve problems triggered by regional and global turmoil.

But critics said France was on the hot seat due to the failed policy of Sarkozy who missed the right path to guide for prosperity.

"If we look to released data, nothing is reassuring. Sarkozy is in difficult situation due to the tough crisis which has shaken the country. I think he has to appease electorate of Marine Le Pen and Francois Bayrou to reach the second tour," said Claire Piaut, analyst at CSA.

"The situation is complicated as he is going to run for a second term with misperceived first mandate considered negative by many of French people," she told Xinhua.

Under Sarkozy, unemployment rate hit 12-year record after reporting 2.874 million job seekers in December, up by 5.6 percent from the same period a year ago, as the government austerity measures hampered growth and dried up opportunities of new jobs.

So, French gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year has been revised down to 1 percent from an initial estimation of 1.75 percent.

In the past four decades, unemployment rate has been painting French political spectra. In 1975, 1 million unemployed people forced Valey Giscard d'Estaing to quit the Elysee. With 2 million jobseekers, the socialist Francois Mitterrand accepted a cohabitation with the right wing in 1986 to secure a second mandate. Defeated Edouard Balladur in 1995, Jacques Chirac left office as joblessness jumped in 2002.

Furthermore, France, the eurozone's second biggest economy, came under heavy fire on global markets and became the bloc's latest member sucked into a spiraling debt crisis.

Worries about a wider fiscal gap and domestic banks' exposure to debt-ridden Europe prompted a cut of France's top notch triple-A rating by Standard and Poor's, making its sovereignty at risk, a second blow to the current French president.

"Triple-A debt rating was not the main concern of the French people but the downgrade contributed to a general climate of anxiety and pessimism about the future of France and plays on the credibility of Nicolas Sarkozy," said Miquet-Marty, director of Viavoice institute.

According to ifop poll issued on Friday, the current head of state would win 43 percent of votes in the second round, far behind the socialist candidate Francois Hollande expected to garner 57 percent of the votes.

Speaking to BFM TV, Industry Minister Eric Besson pointed to the other face of the coin, stressing that disappointing economic data "are not fatal" to Sarkozy. "Do you think someone else could do better than Sarkozy since 2007?" the minister asked.

The former lawyer came to power in 2007 after seizing a lead over the socialist Segolene Royal with 53 percent of the votes.

Sarkozy did not yet officialize his bid to extend his five-year term. But he repeatedly reiterated his determination to "work until the last minute of ... the mandate" in an attempt to appease electorate.

"My duty is to address all the problems and protect you. You can be sure that I will assume to the end the heavy responsibilities you have entrusted me," Sarkozy said in his New Year's greeting message.

According to sources close to the Elysee, the president will announce his candidacy in March.

Sarkozy is scheduled to come on the country's main TV channels on Sunday to announce new measures mainly on unemployment, in a likely further move to regain voters' confidence and garner enough points to beat his fierce socialist rival.