Opponents say president has too much power

11th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 10, 2007 (AFP) - Opponents of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Sunday that his latest election triumph risks giving him a concentration of power even though he is one of the most popular leaders in decades.

PARIS, June 10, 2007 (AFP) - Opponents of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Sunday that his latest election triumph risks giving him a concentration of power even though he is one of the most popular leaders in decades.

Sarkozy's rightwing UMP was poised to take a whopping majority of up to 501 seats in the 577-member National Assembly following a first round of voting in parliamentary elections on Sunday.

The main opposition Socialists, still reeling from the defeat of their candidate Segolene Royal in last month's presidential vote, could lose more than half of their 149 seats, according to some polls.

A big victory in the runoff vote next Sunday would give Sarkozy free rein to push through the programme of bold reforms that was the centerpiece of his presidential campaign.

But Sarkozy is being described as a "hyper-president" and "political velociraptor" by the left and other opponents who accuse him of seeking to dominate every aspect of French politics.

"I for one consider that the UMP's blue wave will be very dangerous," said Socialist Pierre Moscovici, a member of the European parliament.

"There is a concentration of powers that is absolutely staggering -- without precedent in the history of the republic -- in one man, Nicolas Sarkozy," he told RFI radio this week.

"He is a sort of hyper-president, who is all things to everyone -- he is president, head of the government, minister on all matters."

Much of the concern has stemmed from Sarkozy's style as an energetic hands-on president.

Since taking over from Jacques Chirac on May 16, Sarkozy has met with union leaders and environmentalists, pieced together a government that includes prominent politicians from the left and jetted off to European capitals.

The dynamic pace was in sharp contrast with his predecessors Chirac and the Socialist, Francois Mitterrand.

They removed themselves from the hurly-burly of politics in keeping with the view that the head of state should remain above the fray -- a sort of regal figure.

With polls showing that Sarkozy is the most popular president since Charles de Gaulle, the new leader has shrugged off concerns about his political dominance.

"Those who are saying that I have too much power are those who fought alongside Francois Mitterrand to give him a strong majority" when he was president, he told Le Figaro newspaper.

A total of 56 percent of respondents in a BVA poll last week said they thought the new president had their best interests at heart.

Under France's system of government, the presidential election is the pre-eminent vote, with the parliamentary poll almost seen as an adjunct.

"These are elections to ratify and confirm the presidential election and not at all elections to ensure a balance of power," said Christian Barbier, editor of L'Express weekly.

But centrist leader Francois Bayrou campaigned on the idea that parliament could provide a buffer to ensure that Sarkozy's powers do not go unchallenged.

The strong showing by the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) "creates an imbalance in the institutions," said Bayrou, whose Democratic Movement party was expected to pick up barely four seats in parliament.

"France will one day regret this imbalance. It is not healthy to have institutions that give an unprecedented high number of seats to some and reduced representation to others," he said on Sunday.

But analyst Aurore Wanlin of the Center for European Reform in London said there were enough checks and balances in place to ensure that Sarkozy does not cross the boundaries of his executive powers.

"There will still be an opposition in parliament. There is the constitutional court, trade unions... There will be obstacles in his way. It's not a carte blanche."

Sarkozy has called for institutional reform to strengthen parliament's role, such as granting the opposition an official status and appointing an opposition member as chairman of the powerful finance committee.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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