- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The French political landscape is indeed particular. The truth is that all 10 presidential candidates are various shades of red (“Bling Bling vs. a French waffle,” Pruden on Politics, Tuesday).

President Nicolas Sarkozy has moved away from the winning formula known as “the rupture,” in which, for the first time, a presidential candidate appealed to a conservative base and the working-class core of France and their children. Mr. Sarkozy offered a break with the “dirigiste” lock step of government centralization, state ownership and intrusion into the private sector as well as the civil service. He promised to reform this system to avoid bankrupting the nation. He was a man of law and order and had an affection for America and the sacrifices it had made to free France from the boot of Nazi tyranny.

The normally cynical French voters believed “Sarko” would deliver and thus gave him a mandate predicated on this promise.

That was then. Now following the first round vote, the disillusion is deep. Mr. Sarkozy made the fatal flaw of lurching left; his assault on pension reform was largely superficial and then later was diluted further. His expected assault on taxes and business regulation stagnated and ultimately led to tax increases and other growth-killing enclosures of the state. His blend of populism and anti-globalization, along with a witch hunt of industrialists and banks, only served to force his administration to collapse onto itself.

Yet Mr. Sarkozy retains a chance: Challenger Francois Hollande is grotesquely ill-equipped for the office.

The situation is frighteningly similar to the one in the United States, where we have an equally unaccomplished president. The decision for the French is whether, because of their anger and resentment, they wish to oust Mr. Sarkozy and abandon any means of reasonable salvation or begin to build anew and give Sarko an opportunity to redeem himself.

Unfortunately, the choice is not as stark as one would wish. But make no mistake: A Hollande victory will mean the near-term write-off of France as a serious place to work or live.

ROBERT F. AGOSTINELLI

Paris

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