Sarkozy Pivots

Similar to what he did during the Paris Riots about 6 years or so back, Nicolas Sarkozy opportunistically engages in rightwing-sounding rhetoric, which he likely has no real intentions of following through on:

Nicolas Sarkozy has a plan for national recovery after the deadliest Islamist terror attacks on French soil: bring back “eternal France”.

At the centre-right opposition leader’s first political rally since Isis assailants murdered 130 people in Paris earlier this month, the former French president told supporters in Alsace, eastern France, on Wednesday, that multiculturalism is what has made western democracies vulnerable to Islamist extremists.

“France is not a supermarket, it’s a whole,” Mr Sarkozy said to the overcrowded room in the small Alsatian town of Schiltigheim. “There is no French identity, no happy identity in a multicultural society.”

For Mr Sarkozy reviving la France de toujours goes well beyond emergency powers for the police or tough border checks, as instigated by socialist president François Hollande. It means everything from fighting “cultural conformism” caused by unbridled globalisation to restoring homework, standards and discipline to schools.

The motivation behind such talk?

Squeezed between a rebounding Mr Hollande and a resurgent National Front (FN), the anti-immigration party led by Marine Le Pen, Mr Sarkozy has opted to veer to the right. It is a strategy reminiscent of his presidential campaign in 2012, when he was defeated by Mr Hollande.

Ten days before the first round of regional elections in which the FN is expected to make a historic breakthrough — and 18 months before the next presidential poll — Mr Sarkozy’s speech highlights his struggle to project a distinctive voice at time when the entire French political scene has shifted to the right.

“Nicolas Sarkozy evidently lacks political oxygen after the attacks and he is resorting to his old trick of flirting with far-right themes,” Laurent Bouvet, political sciences professor at Versailles university, said. “This could backfire if the FN does better than expected in the regional elections.”

Politically, Mr Sarkozy’s party, Les Républicains, has emerged as the loser in relative terms from the Paris atrocity. The attacks have amplified fears about Islam and immigration, giving Ms Le Pen a boost.

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