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Sarkozy takes election gamble with economy plans

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Sarkozy takes election gamble with economy plans
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Are they daring or disastrous? Opinion is divided in France after President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled tough measures that he hopes will get his country out of crisis and him re-elected.

His proposals, outlined in a televised interview, are intended to boost France’s competitiveness. They include reducing employers’ social security contributions and dismantling the 35-hour working week.

The Socialist Party, whose candidate has a big lead over Sarkozy in the polls, slammed the plans. Socialist leader Martine Aubry said: “He’s going to continue with austerity, with the Sarkozy VAT rate and that’s going to increase job insecurity. Real competitiveness is what Francois Hollande is proposing; putting finance at the service of the economy.”

Whether his proposals have merit or not analysts said Sarkozy — who has not officially announced his candidacy yet — is taking a gamble.

Pollster Celine Bracq of the BVA Institute said: “He is attempting to do what he did in 2007 and 2008, to play on the economy and speak about ‘courageous measures’. It worked in 2007 as he was elected. Sarkozy is a ‘crisis’ president. But given his extreme unpopularity today, it’s not sure that he will go up in French opinion after his TV appearance.”

A lot may depend on how the economy performs in the next three months running up to the election. The forecasts are not good and austerity measures will be taking their toll come voting day.

The campaign has not started formally, but after Sunday’s TV appearance the gloves are well and truly off.