France’s ex-president Sarkozy endorses Macron in election battle against Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron has ‘necessary experience as we face deep international crisis’, says Nicolas Sarkozy

Tom Batchelor
Tuesday 12 April 2022 21:24
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Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has declared his public support for Emmanuel Macron to win a second term after the incumbent came out in pole position in the first round of the country’s presidential election.

The endorsement by Mr Sarkozy, who remains an influential figure on the French right, may complicate the way many voters see the centrist La République En Marche leader.

On the one hand, Mr Sarkozy’s backing is likely to attract conservatives who previously favoured his Les Républicains party – which received a drubbing at the weekend with just 4.8 per cent of the vote.

But it also has the potential to deter left-wing voters who must now decide whether to back Mr Macron or far-right candidate Marine Le Pen on 24 April – or not vote at all.

“He has the necessary experience as we face a deep international crisis, more complex than ever,” Mr Sarkozy said of the president in a tweet on Tuesday.

The 67-year-old, who served as president of France for a single term, from 2007 until 2012, spoke of the next five years being fraught with security and financial uncertainty as he urged voters to back Mr Macron.

He said Mr Macron’s “economic project puts the value of work as the top priority, and his commitment to Europe is clear and unambiguous”.

“A new era is starting. It will require profound changes. We will need to change our habits and partisan reflexes,” he wrote, adding: “Fidelity to right-wing republican values and our governing culture must lead us to answer Emmanuel Macron’s call for unity.”

The current and former presidents have grown closer over the past five years

Mr Sarkozy, who is married to former supermodel Carla Bruni, is an unpopular figure on the left for pushing through plans to raise the retirement age above 60 and for his law-and-order policies.

The current and former presidents have got closer over the past five years, with Mr Macron often inviting his predecessor for dinner at the Elysée Palace and asking him for advice, sources told Reuters.

For the first round of voting, Mr Sarkozy failed to endorse Valérie Pécresse, his own party’s candidate and a minister in his government.

That led many to speculate that Mr Sarkozy was preparing the ground for an alliance between Les Républicains and Mr Macron’s administration.

Last year, Mr Sarkozy was convicted of illegal election campaign financing and sentenced to a year of house arrest.

The sentence came just months after he was found guilty of trying to bribe a judge to get confidential information about an ongoing investigation.

He was handed a three-year jail term, with two years suspended, but insisted he had done no wrong and has appealed.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, anti-immigration National Rally leader Ms Le Pen said on Tuesday she had no plans to take France out of the EU.

“I don’t have a secret agenda,” she told France Inter radio. “I think a large majority of French people no longer want the European Union as it exists today, which is a European Union that functions in an absolutely undemocratic way, which advances by threat, by blackmail and that implements policies that are against the interests of the people.”

Observers in Brussels and other European capitals fear victory for Ms Le Pen would undermine the EU, even if France remained a member, and the union’s generally united stance on Russia could also be weakened.

Mr Macron is travelling to Strasbourg on Tuesday, the official seat of the European parliament, to speak about France’s role in the bloc.

Polls show Mr Macron is the favourite to win the vote a week on Sunday, but his opponent has narrowed the gap compared with France’s last presidential election in 2017.

Additional reporting by agencies

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