Sarkozy makes waves after rival garden party
PARIS, July 15 (AFP) - France's ambitious Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was making news again Friday for outspoken remarks he made while hosting a rival Bastille Day garden party across the road from President Jacques Chirac's reception at the Elysee palace.
National newspapers all reported that the popular ruling party chief left Chirac’s reception early on Thursday in order to attend his own function at the interior ministry, which is situated less than 100 metres from the presidential home.
As Chirac was giving a traditional July 14 interview on national television, Sarkozy spoke to journalists using language that was interpreted as a direct snub to the head of state.
“The French are asking for action. They are asking us to shake up the old ideas,” he was quoted as saying by several newspapers.
“Thanks to 20 years of inertia, of talking waffle, of avoiding the reality of things, of dodging the challenges, we now have a France that rumbles with discontent. I try to listen and respond with my own words and deeds,” Sarkozy, 51, said.
The interior minister, who makes no secret of his desire to replace Chirac after elections in 2007, has been further emboldened to speak his mind by the president’s latest plunge in the opinion polls following May’s failed referendum on the EU constitution.
An open admirer of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his successful assault on unemployment, Sarkozy finds himself increasingly at odds with Chirac’s insistence — repeated during the Bastille day interview — that the French social model must remain in place.
Opposition Socialist party (PS) leaders seized on Sarkozy’s comments as a sign of open warfare inside the ruling centre-right.
“How are these two going to live together for another 21 months? It’s going to be unbearable for both of them. It’s a state of permanent one-upmanship,” said PS spokesman Julien Dray.
Sarkozy’s outspokenness landed him in different trouble earlier this week when he told reporters after a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels that some of those responsible for the London bombings a week ago had previously been detained and then released.
The information was vigorously denied by Sarkozy’s British counterpart Charles Clarke.
Subject: French news