Nicolas Sarkozy’s legacy in French politics
With the first round of the French presidential election upon us and the second round just around the corner, the FT’s Hugh Carnegy, Ben Hall and John Thornhill join Shawn Donnan to discuss the legacy of president Nicolas Sarkozy and his chances of reelection.
France's Socialist Party candidate François Hollande greets supporters after a campaign speech in Bordeaux. Getty Images
For a man who stands on the brink of the French presidency, François Hollande is remarkably low-key, as I discovered tonight at his last campaign rally before the first round of voting on Sunday.
Over the weekend President Sarkozy staged a big campaign rally in the Place de la Concorde and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate, spoke in Marseilles before a crowd estimated at around 100,000. By contrast, tonight Hollande spoke at a suburban park in Bordeaux, before a crowd of just a few thousand. His reception was warm, but there was no sense of fervour. And yet the opinion polls suggest that Hollande will win the decisive second round on May 6th – beating Sarkozy by a wide margin.
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images
If the latest polls are to be believed, Nicolas Sarkozy will be a one-term wonder. A president who has broken with convention throughout his career will likely do so once again: only one other president of the fifth republic - Valéry Giscard d’Estaing – has tried and failed to be re-elected for a second term.
The man likely to topple Sarkozy is an affable creature of the French elite. He’s had a long career traversing the backrooms of politics, yet never held ministerial office. So who is François Hollande?
The scandal of the 20 US secret service agents who cavorted with prostitutes in Cartagena before Barack Obama’s visit to the Summit of the Americas last weekend has become a national issue in the United States. Republican presumptive nominee Mitt Romney is the latest to weigh in on the topic.
If nothing else, the far right should be able to organise a good mass rally. But I found Marine Le Pen’s last public meeting, before the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday, a slightly flat occasion. Of course, it had its moments of whipped-up enthusiasm. If a bunch of nationalists can’t give a raucous rendition of the world’s most stirring anthem (the Marseillaise) – then there is something badly awry. But although the Le Pen rally in Paris finished with the anthem, flag-waving and fireworks, the candidate’s big speech took a long while to get going.
Cristina Fernández holds a sample of the first petroleum extraction in Argentina as she makes the YPF announcement (Getty)
On Monday Cristina Fernández, Argentina’s president, announced the renationalisation of the oil company YPF, ousting the Spanish group Repsol as majority owner and prompting a furious response from Madrid. With Spain and the European Union pondering how best to respond, we cast an eye back at ten of the most momentous nationalisations of resource/commodity institutions. (We are omitting the across-the-board, everything-must-go nationalisations of Russia and China after their respective Communist revolutions, for reasons of space).
I don’t think I have ever seen the British newspapers quite so interested in Chinese politics. Even the tabloids in London have the Bo Xilai story on their front pages. Of course it is not so much the power struggle at the top of the Communist Party that interests them. Rather it is the salacious details of the case: a murdered old Harrovian in a hotel room in China; hints of a sex scandal; allegations of corruption; a son who went to Balliol College, Oxford and enjoyed parties and fast cars.
Amidst all this, however, the chosen narrative of the Chinese Communist Party seems to be prevailing. Bo Xilai was dangerous, corrupt and brutal – he had to go. It certainly seems clear that the crackdown on crime in Chongqing was extremely brutal, and the Bo family were clearly wealthy. But then again, the Chinese system as a whole is not noted for its respect for human-rights. And there are other top political families in China who have accumulated great wealth.
You wait ages for a powerful and influential person to be caught trying to hide an extremely expensive watch – and then two come along at once.
Patriarch Kirill (AP Photo/Patriarchia.ru)
First it was Russian Patriarch Kirill I, whose photograph on the church’s website was digitally altered to erase a $30,000 Breguet watch from his wrist — except whoever made the change forgot about the clear reflection of the timepiece in the mahogany table. This did little to enhance the patriarch’s reputation or that of his church, which faces increasing allegations of corruption and criticism for interfering in Russian politics.
There may not be another Summit of the Americas – at least as we know it. Would that matter? Maybe not. The sixth summit, which ended on Sunday, was supposedly riven by intractable issues. Cuba’s absence was one. The Falklands another. But that was pretty much it, despite the many headlines about inter-American discord.
Elsewhere, the US and Canada saw eye-to-eye with most of Latin America. The region’s biggest and fastest-growing economies – Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru to name just four – all agreed on their desire for more cooperation and closer integration with North America, not less.
Catherine Ashton arrives at a press conference on April 14 in Istanbul. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, has long endured a mixed press in Britain for the way she handles her considerable portfolio.
But it would be wrong not to note the genuine plaudits she received from a number of diplomats over the weekend for the way she managed Saturday’s talks between Iran and world powers in Istanbul.
As co-ordinator of the six powers which negotiate with Iran over its nuclear programme (the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China), Ashton has a difficult role.
These six countries have long had differing views over how to treat Iran’s nuclear ambitions.