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A chess match begins…

In France on Sunday, Nicolas Sarkhozy has manouvered the UMP government party into supporting a referendum for the proposed EU constitution [link in French].

The decision to hold a referendum will be taken by President Jacques Chirac (anyone’s guess what that will be), but the call by the newly appointed Minister of Finance represents a shift away from automatic rubber-stamping by the French parliament.

Privately Chirac will be fuming. He hates Sarkhozy and fears his possible election in 2007 as President. Unlike the recently convicted fraudster Alain Juppé, Mr Sarkhozy might not feel inclined to whitewash the current President’s dubious financial history. Meanwhile, Alain Juppé the UMP party chairman, has endorsed Mr Sarkhozy’s call with the qualification: “within the constitutional prerogatives of the President”. Mr Juppé no doubt feels it is a good time to roll with his colleague’s punches.

6 comments to A chess match begins…

  • I’m fascinated by Sarkhozy — according to surveys he’s the most popular politician in France, while still maintaining his confrontational style AND working hard at politics, too. Chirac’s got something to worry about, alright.

  • In the nitpicky spelling department, Sarkozy has no ‘H’. I am not surprised such a message would be floated by Sarkozy. It is now natural to expect him to stand out and go against the presidential grain. Which makes him the ideal sounding board vector. If the population agrees with him, Chirac can follow and look like he listens to the people. In the meantime, he is the ideal lightning rod for both the Left and the Right. He will go down and get dirty, sparing the President the cursed indignity of actually debating the issue with either the media or the common man in the street.

    Granted, Sarkozy is not afraid to take the initiative. But it’s sometimes hard to say if he is. So far, it’s one of those cases.

  • Jacob

    A question for pundits:

    Are the French electorate for or against the proposed constitution ? Are there any polls ?

    Why is Sarkozy for referendum ? Just to ennoy Chirac and get some headlines, or has he some opinion on the constitution itself, that is – he wants the referendum to undermine the constitution which without the referendum would probably pass easily in parliament ?

  • Antoine Clarke

    the last referendum was the Masstricht Treaty (minus the Euro – which was supposed to be voted on seperately but hey, the government lied!). This was passed by a Florida election margin with all sorts of funny results in places like Tahiti and New Caledonia (about 90 per cent in favour).

    Opinion polls mean nothing: they are notoriously unreliable on European issues and French voters take their time to make up their minds.

    What will really annoy the French urophiles is the realisation that if Mr Blair could have kept his trap shut, then the pressure for a referendum in France could have been contained.

    About Sarkozy: I reckon he is a Thatcherite, in the good and bad senses of the term.

  • Dave

    Sounds just the ticket for Blair though. He’s almost certainly banking on a.n.other EU country voting NO so he doesn’t have to run the risk of the vote here.

    I’m currently thinking it’ll be unlikely that they’re going to need to bother with a referendum in the UK.

  • Gustave La Joie

    Sorry about the spelling mistake!

    the maths are simple:
    1) No referendum= 0% chance of resistance
    2) Referendum= x% chance of resistance, where x is larger than 0.

    Sarkozy is an opportunist, but he sees a market for a politician who proposes deliverable results and is independent of Chirac. A sort of French Michael Howard.