January 29, 2012
President Nicolas Sarkozy will be fighting for his political life when he makes a live appearance on French TV tonight. Some senior figures within his own party fear that he has already lost all chance of winning the two-round presidential election in April and May. There is speculation – possibly rooted in wishful thinking – that Mr Sarkozy may soon be tempted to throw in the towel and allow another senior centre-right politician to run in his place.
Sources within his centre-right party insist that the President will make no dramatic statements tonight. He will not say that he is pulling out of the race. Nor will he declare – yet – that he is a candidate for another five-year presidential term. His TV address to the nation will be purely presidential, they insist: announcing a programme of “urgent” and “revolutionary” reforms to make the struggling French economy more competitive. This will include a controversial plan to shift part of the high pay-roll tax burden on French employers to a higher rate of VAT.
But the tone and contents of Mr Sarkozy’s address will be closely watched by supporters, and rivals, within his centre-right party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP). The President upset some of his supporters last week with off-the-record comments in which he said that he would give up politics if he lost the election.
This was interpreted by some politicians and commentators as a sign that Mr Sarkozy had become defeatist and had no stomach for the fight. The Socialist candidate François Hollande is comfortably ahead in the opinion polls and has given a series of eloquent and confident performances in campaign rallies and TV appearances in the past week.
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