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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « Un populisme social de droite »

by Laurent Mouloud

Right-Wing Social Populism

Translated Saturday 12 May 2007, by Emma Paulay

Interview with Laurent Mucchielli, sociologist, researcher at the CNRS (*)

Huma: As far as security is concerned, can it be said that Nicolas Sarkozy’s values are based on imposture?

Laurent Mucchielli: Before we approach the subject of his values, we need to look back on his term in office. I mainly reproach Nicolas Sarkozy three serious offences. The first is to have manipulated police statistics. He used them, not only as a tool for managing both the national and military police, but also as a means of political communication and personal promotion. Clearly, these statistics became the very means of evaluating his qualities as Minister of the Interior. Each month, they enabled him to declare a so-called decline in delinquency and hence, according to him, a decline in the number of ‘victims’. Incidentally, this is an aberration as he includes all types of delinquency in this decrease. As such, a decline in the number of joints smoked, or in the number of people caught driving without a license constitutes a decrease in the number of ‘victims’!

Second serious offence : Nicolas Sarkozy is one of the causes of the acts of violence of October 2005. His vindictive, warlike, insulting, contemptuous way of speaking with regard to the inhabitants of working-class neighbourhoods was one of the elements which prepared the ground for rebellion and stoked hot tempers until they flared. Next, he contributed to amplifying the riots by the way in which he communicated on the events in Clichy-sous-Bois. He sullied the memories of the dead, prevented the families from mourning and added humiliation to the rest. That says a lot about the sense of responsibility on which he prides himself.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s third serious offence was the acceleration of the breakdown in relations between the police and the public. In particular by the way in which he buried the recently introduced neighbourhood police which had been struggling to emerge.

Huma: Is this policy of security based on any precise ideological foundation?

Laurent Mucchielli: Firstly, I don’t think Nicolas Sarkozy has developed many ideologies and those he has are pretty simple. In the first place, he has classic right-wing values: order and authority. These values are inscribed in the famous “work, family, homeland” as he showed at the end of his election campaign. This ideology is akin to right-wing social populism.

Secondly, Nicolas Sarkozy has an utter lack of knowledge and a misunderstanding of French society in 2007. To not see, for example, that today, there is a real problem in relations between the police and the population, you have to have been shut up in your office!

Thirdly, when you put together this lack of analysis and this extremely old fashioned ideological base, it comes as no surprise to see old ghosts reappear, like the good old ’national identity’ or the subject of genetics and criminality.

Fourthly and finally, despite all this, he succeeds in being seen as modern, active and dynamic. Why? Because Nicolas Sarkozy has a very strongly developed political intelligence and a great strategic capacity. Both are enlisted to serve his sole and unique cause: the conquest for power.

(*) Co-director of the work "Quand les banlieues brûlent..., retour sur les révoltes de novembre 2005", Editions La Découverte.

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