A strong France - Captain Sarkozy's presidential slogan
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10.7 million people watched Nicolas Sarkozy on French television on Wednesday night as he officially announced his intention to run for a second term as French President in elections in April.
Speaking on France’s main evening news programme Sarkozy told viewers that he felt that in a situation where France, Europe and the world were “experiencing successive crises like never before”, that not to seek a second mandate would amount to a dereliction of duty.
He said that if re elected, his second term would be different from the first, which he suggested had been derailed by the international economic situation.
One of the most striking elements of his manifesto is a pledge to have more referendums.
Although back in 2007, Sarkozy appeared to disparage such direct democracy, he now favours the idea and said last night that if a planned reform becomes deadlocked, he will ask the French people for their opinion in a referendum.
One issue he plans to put to the people is the question of unemployment – how much should the jobless be paid and what responsibilities do they have?
Sarkozy said he wanted work to regain its value, and he stressed what he said were his key values: work, responsibility and authority.
Unveiling his campaign slogan “Une France Forte” (A strong France), Sarkozy said France needed to be strong if it was to hang on to its socio-economic model.
His official campaign photo, revealed on Thursday, shows Sarkozy in front of a calm sea, in line with the image he hopes to create, of a captain steering a ship through stormy economic waters.
Sarkozy’s rivals were unimpressed by his performance last night.
Centre-right candidate François Bayrou says the French people “wanted to change from the captain who had steered the ship onto the rocks.”
Far right Front National leader Marine Le Pen said Sarkozy was like a “magician”, “whose strings could be seen coming out of his suit”.
And for Socialist François Hollande, who is leading in opinion polls, Sarkozy “tried to make his weaknesses appear like strengths.”
The verdict in most of today’s French newspapers is that Sarkozy last night was unconvincing, and his political rivals declare themselves unimpressed.
But Britain’s The Times newspaper has praise for Sarkozy declaring that, despite his faults, he is the best candidate on offer in France.
It remains to be seen whether the support of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing daily and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, help or hinder Sarkozy’s campaign.