Nicolas Sarkozy’s performance in France’s first round of voting in the presidential election came after a shaky start, with plummeting popularity. At a major rally last weekend, he launched this appeal.
“Speak out! Say what’s in your heart, what you want for your country! Say it loud and clear! Say it now, don’t be afraid!”
He announced he would run for office again scarcely more than two months before the voting. There had been little doubt, yet the various competition had been out campaigning for weeks already. It was time to pick up the slack. His popularity rating was the lowest of any end-of-mandate president since the late 1950s.
In 2007, Sarkozy slips his second round ballot in the box, on the cusp of realising his political dream. He is elected with a 53 percent share of the vote, riding a wave of enthusiasm. Then his private life starts getting in the papers a bit too often. He divorces and then marries a new wife, the model Carla Bruni, inaugurating the so-called ‘bling’ presidency. It is in odd contrast to the global financial crisis mood. And the world sees his getting together with Chancellor Angela Merkel to save Europe’s fiscal pact as an odd couple as well, as unemployment and austerity policy encroach on France.
So it is hard for Sarkozy to claim, as in 2007, that he is the president of all the French, to convince those who have been disappointed. He throws a rally at Villepinte, with 50,000 supporters.
The real turnaround of the campaign comes after the serial murders in Toulouse of seven people. All campaigning is suspended, the candidate reverts to presidential role, promising stern measures, and after the dead are buried, Sarkozy’s approval ratings begin to recover.
Then comes: “We will win, Mr Obama.”
Any humble tone early in his campaign is replaced by his trademark self-confidence. He lets television cameras capture moments of a video call with the White House.
For that ‘we will win’ prediction to really come true for Sarkozy, his luck will have to hold for round two.