French political heavyweights sign anti-Sarkozy polemic

18th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Cross-party spectrum of senior French political figures signed an open letter criticising a drift towards "elective monarchy" under President Nicolas Sarkozy

   PARIS, February 18, 2008 - A cross-party spectrum of senior French
political figures signed an open letter published Saturday criticising a drift
towards "elective monarchy" under President Nicolas Sarkozy.
   With less than a month to go to key local elections across France, and
Sarkozy's personal ratings in freefall, the petition accuses the president --
without naming him -- of undermining France's secular traditions, freedom of
the press, foreign policy and separation of powers.
   Its 17 signatories include two candidates beaten by Sarkozy in last year's
presidential elections, socialist Segolene Royal and centrist Francois Bayrou,
as well as Dominique de Villepin, the last prime minister under former
president Jacques Chirac and a member of Sarkozy's own Union for a Popular
Movement (UMP) party.
   The letter, published in the leftwing weekly Marianne, makes a "plea for
Republican vigilance", and accuses the head of state of "drifting towards a
purely personal form of power more akin to an elective monarchy."
   It criticizes Sarkozy's policies on secularism and the independence of the
press, and calls for a "dignified foreign policy" and the "preservation of
national independence."
   Sarkozy's rapid-fire divorce, followed by his romance and marriage to
Italian former supermodel Carla Bruni, has kept the president on the front
pages almost daily over the past few months, but not boosted his popularity.
   He has been attacked for failing to improve the buying power of the French
his perceived moves towards closer ties with the Catholic Church, and his
latest proposal that French 10-year old children should each sponsor the
memory of a Jewish child killed in the Holocaust.
   Meanwhile a series of strikes and the banking crisis at Societe Generale
have caused unease ahead of the local elections on March 9 and 16, which are
tipped to deal a severe setback to the UMP.
   Sarkozy's supporters hit back Saturday, with Prime Minister Francois Fillon
calling the Marianne letter part of a "witch-hunt" against the president and
an "attempt at revenge" less than a year after Sarkozy was elected.
   Campaigning in Laval for the elections, Fillon called it the work of bitter
anti-Sarkozyites, who were "not elected by the French, not been chosen by the
French, but trying to destabilise" the man who had beaten them.
   That was echoed by UMP spokesman Yves Jego, who told Europe 1 radio on
Saturday: "It is an attempt at revenge, by those who want to fell the head of
state to take back what the French electors decided just nine months ago."


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