Sarkozy courts ‘silent majority’ in French presidential race
Hours after Donald Trump’s US election victory, a close political ally of French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the moment as “a beautiful day”.
While the result aroused anxiety among much of Europe’s political mainstream, French legislator Philippe Meunier drew cheers as he warmed up a crowd of conservative faithful before Sarkozy arrived for a rally near the city of Lyon. “I was woken up this morning to good news from the United States and salute the determination of Americans who were faced with those who lecture us about what to think, and for whom to vote,” he said.
At the time, western leaders were offering to work with Trump but making clear their apprehension over his campaign threats on issues ranging from NATO solidarity to the Iran nuclear deal and climate change. But with France holding its own presidential election next spring, the Sarkozy camp appears to have no such fears.
Sarkozy, who did not support Trump’s campaign, said the US election result was a rejection of “conformist thinking”. The conservative is pursuing a search for votes that has taken him fishing in the waters of the farright National Front party.
Meunier told Wednesday’s rally that the US result exposed a frustration voters felt toward an establishment that was entrenched across the West, including in France. He set the stage for Sarkozy, who railed against an elite in France that he said had turned a deaf ear to citizens under socialist President Francois Hollande.
Sarkozy, who as president between 20072012 was himself part of that elite, said he was listening, less than two weeks before a primary contest for the centre-right presidential ticket. Against the backdrop of a wave of bloody Islamist militant attacks in France and Europe’s immigration crisis, the 61-year-old promises to get tough on immigration, defend France’s secular values and revive national pride. “There is an anger among the people. They are living in a reality which is no longer recognised by many politicians,” Sarkozy said a day later in a television interview. — Reuters
BORDEAUX, FRANCE: Former French president and candidate for the right-wing Les Republicains (LR) party primaries ahead of the 2017 presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy gestures as he speaks during a campaign rally. — AFP