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Thursday, January 19, 2012

International Thursday, #1 : French Electoral Fly in EuroCrisis Ointment ?

Seems so, given the prominent role French President Nicolas Sarkozy has played in attempts to manage, if not resolve, the EuroCrisis thus far, for with his nation's elections a scant three months away, Sarkozy lags in recent polls.

According to DER SPIEGEL's Stefan Simon...
He is a haunted, restless president, battling his crumbling popularity amid economic misery. He faces rising debt, a growing budget deficit, endemic unemployment and then the embarrassing downgrade by the ratings agency Standard & Poor's last week. Sarkozy seems both stricken and nervous.
Despite a temporary rise in the poll ratings for Sarkozy, most opinion researchers are currently predicting a clear victory in the French election for Francois Hollande, the candidate of the Socialist Party (PS).
Even among Sarkozy's faithful followers, the negative ratings have caused widespread anxiety. "He has been hit, and is groggy, like a boxer on the ropes," newspaper Les Echos, which is close to his conservative UMP government, recently quoted a prominent member of the party as saying. The statement came after the president gave a hot-headed response at a news conference in Madrid to a question about the ratings downgrade. Others are even worried because Sarkozy, instead of looking like a fighter, recently displayed a "crestfallen facial expression."
He has enough reason to do so. In France, feelings of dissatisfaction, hostility, and sometimes even bitter hatred run deep towards the president. Sarkozy, once ridiculed as buddy to the Glitterati, a friend of the rich, and king of scandals, wanted with his "policy of disruption" to bring the country in line with the practices of the 21st century. But even among conservative voters these targeted attacks on old taboos were seen as an attack on the symbols of the Republic. And the mix of the private and public spheres -- displaying both marital crises and domestic bliss -- proved to be a faulty attempt at creating sympathy for the president. 
Echoing Simon above are BLOOMBERG's Mark Deen and Helene Fouquet :
...the cut to AA+ may hurt Sarkozy’s reputation for economic management and diminish his stature in discussions to end the European debt crisis, said political analysts such as Emmanuel Riviere, a pollster at TNS Sofres in Paris.
“Sarkozy has built his whole strategy on being the most credible candidate on the economy, on being the surest leader in a crisis,” Riviere said. “That line is getting harder and harder to hold. It’s getting harder to say that he’s an equal in the Franco-German couple, that he’s a power at European summits.”
Trailing Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in the polls, Sarkozy called on French voters yesterday to back his “economic reforms” in his first comments since the downgrade, saying “the crisis can be overcome on condition that we have the collective will to do so.” Although Hollande stepped up attacks on the president, he too may have to water down campaign promises in response to the rating change.  
And as Angelique Chrisafis of THE GUARDIAN (U.K.) notes :
With the Socialist François Hollande leading the polls and Marine Le Pen of the extreme right Front National biting at his heels, Sarkozy is under severe political pressure over the recession and unemployment.
Last month more than half French voters felt losing the AAA would have a big impact on their lives. France is the world's "most pessimistic" country in terms of economic outlook, with the lowest recorded score in more than 30 years, according to a poll this month. "Even in 1978, after the second oil crisis that called into question an entire economic system, the French have never shown themselves as pessimistic as today," Gallup International said.
Up to 15m French people have trouble making ends meet at the end of the month.
One key impact would be on local authorities, many heavily in debt to banks after taking out large loans. French communes have been described as "hundreds of little Greeces" by the economist Karine Berger in the Nouvel Observateur. 

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