Sarkozy book rejects Chirac 'appeasement'

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The Independent Online

The French Interior Minister and possible future president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is calling for radical changes to France's "monarchical" system of government.

The "aloof" President of the Republic should become more like a prime minister, responsible for daily government, he says. The Prime Minister should take charge of European affairs. Parliament should be given more power. There should be an official opposition, based on the British model.

In a book published yesterday, M. Sarkozy, the likely candidate of the governing centre-right in next spring's presidential elections, tries to mend some of his broken bridges with President Jacques Chirac. But he rejects utterly the Chirac style of government, which he says is based on "appeasement" and "unification" at all costs, rather than "leadership" and "taking tough decisions".

He also criticises what many people in France - and elsewhere - still think was M. Chirac's finest hour: his threat to use France's veto on UN backing for military action by the United States and Britain in Iraq in 2003. M. Sarkzoy, 51, implies that, as president, he would rompre (break with) many French traditions, including gut suspicion of the US.

The book - Témoignage ("testimony"), published by XO Editions for €16.90 - also revisits the recent controversies over M. Sarkozy's private life. The Interior Minister accepts responsibility for the much-reported rift with his wife, Cécilia. He says he neglected her and exposed her to too much media and political pressure before she left him for another man last year. M. Sarkozy says they are now back together.

On economic and social issues, M. Sarkozy also calls for radical changes in the French way of doing things. "The truth about our [welfare and employment protection] system is that it protects those who already have something and it is very harsh on those who have nothing," he says.

M. Sarkozy rejects suggestions that France is profoundly allergic to reform. He believes that a majority of French people would welcome a shift to a system which encouraged "success and initiative". However, he fails to provide much detail on social change.

He even suggests that the French middle classes have been neglected - which runs counter to his previous assertion that the French system protects the "haves" and neglects the "have nots".

M. Sarkozy looks certain to be the candidate of the ruling Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) in presidential elections next April and May.

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