Sarkozy pushes bid with book of political ideas

20th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 19, 2006 (AFP) - French right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy brought his presidential bid a step closer this week, with publication of a book of political 'pensées' in which he calls on France to work harder, advocates controlled immigration and expresses rare praise for Jacques Chirac.

PARIS, July 19, 2006 (AFP) - French right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy brought his presidential bid a step closer this week, with publication of a book of political 'pensées' in which he calls on France to work harder, advocates controlled immigration and expresses rare praise for Jacques Chirac.

Some 130,000 copies of 'Temoignage' - 'Testimony' in English - appeared in  bookshops on Monday in a clear attempt to grab the summer reading market and put the ambitious interior minister in pole position when the pre-campaign begins in earnest after the holidays.

The latest surveys show that Sarkozy, 51, is well-placed to win the election in April, with a lead of 35 percent to 32 over the Socialists' most likely candidate Segolene Royale.

Over 280 pages, Sarkozy sets out his case for a 'rupture' to wean France from what he sees as its most pressing problems: an economic culture that penalises work; the failed integration of African and Arab immigrants; and a dysfunctional system of government.

In the last 20 years, he writes, France has plunged from sixth to 17th place in the country rankings of GDP per inhabitant; social expenditure has shot from 20 to 33 percent of output; unemployment is stuck at near 10 percent; and more than half of workers earn less than EUR 1,500 (1,885 dollars) a month.

His answer is a dose of liberal economic medicine, as has been applied across the Channel in Britain.

"Do people ever wonder why the English are buying our houses in Dordogne, Perigord, Luberon and Savoie? Simply because Britain's GDP is 10 percent higher than France's and the British standard of living is much higher than here in France," Sarkozy writes.

"I have nothing against the English, who are our friends, but it is not my ambition for the most beautiful villages of France to become their exclusive holiday spots!"

The candidate expresses admiration for the British system of government - which he says is the "model of representative democracy" - calling for a revision of the French constitution so that presidents are more accountable to the National Assembly.

And he again praises the US system of "affirmative action" - which he says has allowed millions of black and Hispanic Americans to enter the middle-class. "Positive discrimination is an experience that could inspire us," Sarkozy writes.

"I have no fascination for the American model. But if I have to choose, I feel much closer to American society than to many others around the world."

In a section on last year's riots - during which Sarkozy was accused of stoking unrest because of his tough words about young troublemakers - he blames the problems of France's high-immigration 'banlieues' on "uncontrolled and therefore unintegrated immigration."

"I abhor racism. I detest xenophobia. I believe in the strength and richness of diversity. I love the idea of a France of many faces," writes Sarkozy, himself the son of a Hungarian immigrant.

"Since the 1980s France has spent billions in the 'banlieues.' It has put in place dozens of successive plans. Not only has nothing changed, the situation has got even worse. It is not money the 'banlieues' need, but new solutions, different methods and plain speaking," he says.

In a chapter that will revive criticism that he uses his personal affairs to boost his image, Sarkozy speaks of his wife Cecilia - from whom he has spent much of the last year estranged. "Even after 20 years speaking her name leaves me moved," he says.

And in an unusual departure - given their difficult past relations - he speaks with guarded admiration of President Chirac, the man he hopes to replace in nine months.

"I feel esteem for Jacques Chirac's qualities. His energy, tenacity, his strength in adversity, his capacity to appear and therefore to be sympathetic: these are characteristics which one does not comes across that often.

"Many are those who call themselves his friends who have caused him far more aggravation than I ever will," Sarkozy writes.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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