Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Old King And The Young Pretender

The man most likely to become the next President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, has run into a political row over what he might do with the current incumbent of that job. Supposing Sarkozy wins the first round of voting later this month and the run-off on May 6, his first big problem looks like being how to deal with the corruption allegations that surround the outgoing President Chirac. A French magazine is claiming Sarkozy has promised his old mentor an "amnesty" from prosecution.

Such an offer from Sarkozy would be very welcome for Chirac. He's long been accused of getting up to various illegal party funding activities while Mayor of Paris between 1977 and his election to the Presidency in 1995. For as long as he remains President, he's got immunity from prosecution. But that runs out the day he leaves the Elysee Palace. Prosectors have already suggested they want to interview him.

It's not a totally accurate analogy, but you could think about Chirac and Sarkozy as the Blair and Brown of French politics; one the long-standing leader, the other his rival who's been waiting to take over for a long time. Just like Blair and Brown, they've fallen out to such an extent they more or less don't talk to each other anymore. So for Sarkozy to agree to let Chirac off, and allow the early days of his Presidency to be dominated by the criticism that would follow, would be a surprising decision. But maybe his old loyalty to Chirac will prove too strong for him to resist.

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