Daniel Korski

Sarko’s bloody Sunday

Sarko's bloody Sunday
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President Nicolas Sarkozy has struck again, forcing the resignation of his dictator-friendly and gaffe-prone foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, in the hope of shoring up the French government after a terrible couple of weeks. She will be replaced by Defence Minister Alain Juppé, a heavyweight conservative who was prime minister in the 1990s.

Speaking to the nation on Sunday, Sarkozy suggested re-launching the Mediterranean Union and called for a meeting of the European Council to discuss Europe's response to the Arab revolutions. Getting European leaders together is a good idea. The scramble by each European country to get their citizens out of Libya could probably have done with a little more coordination. And the EU needs to rethink its billion-euro support for the Arab countries in transition like Tunisia, Egypt and hopefully Libya as well.

But it is hard to see how this will shore up the French president. Polls suggest that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, would beat President Sarkozy in the first round of France's 2012 presidential election. The good news for the Elysée is that DSK's lead has narrowed since the last poll, as the President's aides have stepped up their attacks the IMF chief.

But the distance between the two remains. Worse – though it is still unlikely – some analysts think Marine Le Pen, from the far-right National Front, could outpoll Sarkozy in the first round of voting. In a CSA poll that gave Sarkozy 23 per cent, Le Pen received 18 per cent of the support.

It is all quite tragic. France needs serious reform and Sarkozy looked like he was just the man to deliver it. In fairness, he has accomplished a lot. But his erratic manner, imperious style and jealous nature has undermined him and made voters lose faith. If, for example, he had stuck with humanitarian Bernard Kouchner as foreign minister he would have been much better placed to respond to the changes in the Middle East. But that's not Sarko. He got impatient with the older Socialist and wanted a more partisan team. He got failure instead.

If Sarkozy is to win at the next election a change of style will not only be useful but necessary.