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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Sarkozy : arrêt sur image à Montboudif

by Dominique Bègles

Sarkozy: Freeze Frame in Montboudif

Translated Tuesday 12 July 2011, by Brian Bartell and reviewed by Bill Scoble

A very free political adaptation of a nostalgic scene by the President, and candidate for re-election, in Pompidou’s home town.

Fade in. A cinematic term. But one applicable also to Sarkozy’s move yesterday (6 July) on the campaign trail in Montboudif on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Georges Pompidou, president of the French Republic between 1969 and 1974. There the president/candidate played a typical role: his goal was to fashion himself as the heir, or even reincarnation, of a man, of his politics, and above all, of an era.

The initiative falls squarely within Sarkozy’s attempt to refashion his presidential image. Georges Pompidou is a timely choice: the symbolism evokes a France which no longer exists, in contrast to the France of today, where ruinous political, social and economic relations prevail; where society has become more urban than rural and the mode of production has been dramatically modified by scientific and technical changes. Nicolas Sarkozy, a bit like Mitterrand leading up to the 1981 election with his “quiet strength” based on a nostalgia for France and for small towns, has taken up the thread. Pompidou: rotund, cigarette in mouth, the son of a teacher, rooted in the earth of a pre-crisis France, who became a normalien (student or graduate of the École normale supérieure; Ed.) and art lover thanks to republican meritocracy. From the current president, the sleight-of-hand is thus presented: “After forty years of uninterrupted crises, of painful changes, the time has come for us to reconcile ourselves to what we truly are, to regain confidence, to convince ourselves that what our fathers once accomplished, we are capable of accomplishing once again, that the spirit of our people is no less great today than yesterday.”

The other aspect of the presidential visit was more directly political. In following the steps of Pompidou, Nicolas Sarkozy consigns to the back pages of history the shadows Gaullism has cast over the today’s landscape. In the same way, it’s also an overture to a current in center-right politics initiated by Pompidouism and seized by Giscard in 1974 to the detriment of Chaban-Delmas. Edouard Balladur, ally of Nicolas Sarkozy during the 1995 presidential campaign is not mistaken: “Pompidou wanted a modern country, but balanced and pacified.” In Montboudif, Nicolas Sarkozy once again buries Gaullism.

Devedjian notes “a real paradox” in Sarkozyism

While president Sarkozy declared himself the heir of Pompidou, the UMP deputy Patrick Devedjian denounced “a paradox,” noting the place accorded to Chiraquians in the government. “One needs to remember” he said, “that the battle of 2007 was about the break with Jacques Chirac.” Ultimately “It’s a big overture to Chirac’s people.” He added, “In 1995, the Sarkozyites were not welcomed warmly by Jacques Chirac.” With all due respect to Patrick Devedjian, isn’t the real paradox that Nicolas Sarkozy has no chance of being re-elected except with the support, for better or for worse, of the Chiraquians?

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