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Three More Years

photo: bar, resto, americain

An American Dream.

Of Sarkomania?

Paris:– Monday, 6. September 2004:– Last week's curious meeting between two famous short people, the actor Tom Cruise and France's minister of the budget, finance and industry, Nicolas Sarkozy, began to make sense when Nicolas Sarkozy's week went wrong.

Most ordinary residents here were unaware that Mr. Sarkozy had planned the week to be a triumphant media parade for himself, to build up to a frenzy of adoration at a weekend gathering of UMP party faithful.

Hints of the media shipwreck turned up in Wednesday's papers when we read about the cancellation of the crucial meeting between président Jacques Chirac and his ambitious minister. The Elysée Palace let it be known that the président was occupied with the French journalists held hostage in Iraq.

So the planned Tuesday meeting happened on Wednesday late in the day, and the Elysée Palace put out the announcement about it instead of Mr. Sarkozy. The big story about this ended up on Le Parisien's page 6 on Thursday, well behind the head scarf issue and the continuing hostage situation.

As the paper puts it, Président Chirac has given his official blessing for his minister's candidaturephoto: saxophone, pont carrousel for leadership of the UMP party, which is the political party that officially exists in order to support the président. It was a deft move which essentially cut Mr. Sarkozy's media blitz dead.

The afternoon meeting was termed 'cordial' but followed a morning ministerial meeting described as 'crispy.' Of the three possible scenarios, it was decided that Mr. Sarkozy could continue as the government's 'number two' minister until the UMP's congress in late November. This also ended speculation about any ministerial shuffles between now and then and kind of left the prime minister hanging.

Officially, the président supports Mr. Sarkozy's candidature to head the UMP party. But this is because the chief of state is unable to promote any other available choices. No others benefit from any comparable 'Sarkomania' here.

Well, there may be one, but Minister of the Interior Dominique de Villepin – who was the star attraction on the France–2 TV–news Thursday evening – has not shown much overt ambition. He is tall even when sitting down, he has a big vocabulary and he uses it to good effect both in France and at the United Nations when he was foreign minister.

The week's media blitz for Nicolas Sarkozy was reduced to the Monday curiosity with the actor – who was using who? – and only resumed on the weekend when an Alpine meeting of 'young' UMP members selected Mr. Sarkozy to be a candidate for the presidency of the UMP.

The Prime Minister, Jean–Pierre Raffarin, who has been painted into a shrinking political corner, even showed up to proclaim Mr. Sarkozy as his 'preferred candidate.'

While Socialists and other diverse lefties sit on the sidelines as spectators, the majority parties have two factions. One is the 'anyone–except–Sarkozy' and the other is 'nobody–else–but–Sarkozy.'

It is all somewhat curious. That the bonzen of the party don't want a six–pack of candidates running for président of France in 2007 is understandable. But whether Jacques Chirac will want to succeed himself is unknown. Does his endorsement of Mr. Sarkozy mean he intends to retire?

While Mr. Sarkozy has managed to become a candidate for the presidency of the 'président's' party, he has not been elected yet. Even if he is elected, it does not automatically mean that he will be the sole UMP member to run for Président of France in 2007. And even if he is, it does not automatically follow that the French will give him the same majority that he gets in Neuilly.

Nicolas Sarkozy has a lot of energy and he spends it with abandon. Can he keep it up for three more years? Especially after November when he won't have a key ministerial platform for staging his performances.

Recently there have been at least four other government ministers who have shown that they too can stage effective media shows, andphoto: maison de chine, shanghai it can be assumed that all of them will remain in the government. I can't be completely sure, but all of them seem to be taller than Nicolas Sarkozy, with Dominique de Villepin being tallest of all.

Rolling Out the Red Carpet

Last Wednesday the Popular People's Republic of China began issuing visas to citizens for travel to France. By coincidence there just happened to be some groups of Chinese in Paris, apparently on their way home from the Olympic Games in Athens.

Potential Chinese visitors are considered important enough for the tourist minister, Léon Bertrand, to meet some of them at the airport. All of France's tourist authorities have had their calculators heating up, counting the numbers of Chinese that will soon be flooding the byways of Paris. Estimate – 800,000 to one million, next year.

The director of an important hotel group estimated that up to two million Chinese can be expected by 2006. This possibility sent TV–news crews to shopping heavens in the big department stores last week, where viewers could see lots of red carpets.


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