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photo: cafe le primrose

Watering hole on the way to the Champ de Mars.

Mugging of the Week

Paris:– Monday, 19. July 2004:– France's 'favorite' government minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, only managed to land on Le Parisien's front page three times during the week, but was a nightly feature of the TV–news.

Newspapers have dubbed him the 'second in the government.' I suppose this technically means second to the prime minister, Jean–Pierre Raffarin, and not 'second' after Président Jacques Chirac.

Nicolas Sarkozy is in the news because he wants Jacques Chirac's job, and he would prefer having it tomorrow rather than wait the constitutional three years until the next presidential election in 2007. Nicolas is in a hurry.

Jacques Chirac was in a hurry to become president too, but it took him 20 years to get where he is today. He was mayor or Paris and several times government minister. In 1995 his turn rolled around andphoto: french, eu, un, flags ballots sent him to the Elysée Palace for seven years. Two years ago, after the term was shortened to five years, he was returned for five years, thanks to a lot of leftist voters who cast ballots against Jean–Marie Le Pen.

French, EU and UN flags on Bastille Day.

Also two years ago, leaders of Chirac's RPR party decided to rename it as the UMP party, with one–time prime minister and mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé, as head. Unfortunately Alain was convicted early this year of treating public money with dubious judgement, and his appeal of the conviction is coming up this fall.

So Alain resigned this week as head of the UMP party and returned to Bordeaux. Nicolas is acting as if he wants to be head of the UMP party, but at the same time he is Minister of Finance in Jean-Pierre Raffarin's government – which was appointed to the job of running France by Jacques Chirac.

This is not the funky 20th century anymore, so there are new rules in the land. One of them concerns not holding multiple elective offices. At one time it was possible to be a mayor, a deputy, a regional councilor, and a senator, all at once. I may be wrong, but it is possible that Nicolas is currently mayor of Neuilly, Minister of Finance, and something in the Hauts–de–Seine department or the Ile–de–France region.

The 'patron' of the 'shanty,' Jacques, has told Nicolas that he can't be leader of the UMP party without giving up his ministerial post. Nicolas chooses to be deaf.

On Bastille Day, Wednesday, 14 July, Jacques Chirac tried yet again. Traditionally, the 'patron' of the French holds a televised session after the Champs–Elysées parade.photo: fireworks, eiffel This usually comes off a sort of 'here we are and how we're doing' exercise, lodged in time between the military parade and the garden party in the grounds of the Elysée Palace.

Fireworks, fireworks!

Jacques said, 'Nobody is obliged to be a minister.' Devoting a third of the televised time to an instruction for his wayward Minister of Finance, Jacques clearly stated in plain French that Sarkozy could not hope to be both boss of the UMP party and Minister of Finance.

"There are no differences between the Minister of Finance and me, for a simple reason" Jacques intoned icily, "I decide and he executes."

In the adjoining Salle des Fêtes where friends and supporters watched the live broadcast on television, there was vivid applause. Nobody could remember any applause before in this room on the occasion of these traditional July speeches.

Alluding to Sarkozy's multiple ambitions, Jacques added, 'If a minister becomes head of the UMP and doesn't resign, I'll end his functions immediately.' Then he added that there are three years remaining before the next presidential elections.

Nicolas' supporters thought all of this was a bit 'rude.'

Along the way, the other news of the day was Jacques' decision to organize a referendum so that the French can vote for – or against – the proposed European Constitution. This is foreseen for the second half of 2005.

While the 'patron' was talking to the French on television, out in the garden of the Elysée Palace the Minister of Finance, the petit bonhomme known to all as Nicolas Sarkozy, was running his own 'Sarko Show.'

With wife Cécilia in white pants and daughter in tow, Sarko dispensed good cheer to all, including ex–Prime Minister Michel Rocard, who had his difficulties with François Mitterrand. 'It's not a civil war,' Rocard was overheard saying, 'It's democracy.'

Other ambitious ministers watched the procession glide to the bottom of the garden and back to the top. More and more photographers swarmed around Sarkozy. Everybody wanted to be in the photo, with the palace in the background. Not wanting to seem like he was moving in, the Sarlozy made for the exit. "Let's go!" he said. A supporter of the 'patron' didn't try to slow him down.

In Thursday's edition Le Parisien summed it up – "Chirac 'flingue' Sarkozy. 'Flingue' is argot for shoot, to assassinate, to bump off. Headline hyperbole.

Above the logo of Le Parisien on Friday, the headline 'Chirac, Raffarin, Sarkozy – Au bord de la crise de nerfs' blazed. Inside on page four, 'Sarkozy Refuses to Bend.' The story is about nothing substantial, other than the fact that Nicolas Sarkozy had packed his bags for a trip to La Baule, a seaside resort where he expected to tell his UMP fans about his future.

Where he persisted. On Friday night the energetic petit bonhomme did not cede a millimetre, not in form, not in substance. He continued his usual double–talk, always saying he will not be party to controversy, insisting that he is merely exercising his right to free speech.

Nicolas said, 'I am not modifying my calendar between now and the end of August.' He has, he said, the responsibilityphoto: army tank, bastille day of preparing the budget. He said, according to reports, that he will not exonerate the military budget from the sacrifices to be made by civilians. Jacques won't like hearing this.

Rubber–tired 'city' tank in the 14th.

Somehow Nicolas escapes Sunday's edition of Le Parisien but today he is back, having exchanged his calendar for his calculator. During the summer he'll be meeting the other ministers and strong–arming them for budget reductions. A spokesman says that the defense budget won't be cut, to conform to the 'wish' of the president – AKA 'patron' or boss.

Adieu Juppé

Also at La Baule on Friday, Alain Juppé resigned as head of the UMP party, just as he said he would do. With a simple letter of resignation he recalled his nearly 30 years of public service.

Early this year he was convicted for his part in the fictional employees affair that dated back to 1998. He was sentenced to 18 months, suspended, and ten years of political exclusion. President Jacques Chirac asked him to continue as party head for another six months, although he wanted to quit. The conviction has been appealed, but the decision won't be rendered until later this year.

Alain Juppé entered politics as a councilor in Prime Minister Chirac's cabinet in 1976. In 1983 he became a councilor in the Paris city hall, in charge of finance as second assistant tophoto: fireworks, eiffel the mayor, Jacques Chirac. He was elevated to Minister of the Budget under Jacques Chirac in 1986. In 1988 he became the national secretary of the RPR party, created by Chirac and now called UMP.

In 1995 Alain Juppé was appointed Prime Minister by the newly elected President, Jacques Chirac, while holding the office of mayor of Bordeaux and functioning as head of the president's RPR party. In 2002 he was named president of the UMP party.

More fireworks, more!

Reports say he has attempted to leave the party in good hands so that it can continue its primary mission – ensuring the reelections of Jacques Chirac and his centre–right conservative companions. Juppé will be missed.

Mugging of the Week

On Friday, 9. July at 9:27 Marie with her 13 month–old baby in a pousette boarded the double–decker RER 'D' train at the Louvres station to return home to Aubervilliers. She parked the pousette on the wagon's entry platform, to avoid using the stairs to the seats above or below, and remained standing near the doors.

At the same time a group of teenagers boarded the SNCF wagon at the opposite end. They filtered through both levels of the long wagon, until finding Marie and her baby alone on the platform. Afterwards she said four were North Africans and two were Africans, without being able to be more precise.

She was encircled, and three of the youths had knives. One took her back–pack and discovered Marie's purse containing a debit card, 200€ in cash and other papers. Her identity card had an old address in the 16th arrondissement on it.

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