France's New, Nouveau Riche President
The man has done it in record time. Days even before getting into office, French President Elect, Nicolas Sarkozy, drew heavy criticism over accepting an invitation for a stay aboard a billionaire's yacht before his official taking over on May, 16th. (For more about the yacht, click here).
While it was Sarkozy's functional rhetoric in the pre-election campaign that "nobody would be left behind", very obviously he has no intentions of keeping all suspicions at bay that his presidency could be partial. In a somewhat nuveau riche statement, reports French newspaper Libération in today's online edition, Sarkozy is reported as saying that he neither planned to excuse, nor to hide.
Sarkozy's unashamed escapade gives the French electorate a good possibility to correct its decision in the June pariliamentary elections, possibly forcing Sarkozy into a "cohabitation" with a Socialist majority in Parliament from day one.
Italian Blogger Adriano Farano, on the Libération weblog warns of a Berlusconisation of French politics. Says Farano: "The real danger for democracy are not the Berlusconis or the Sarkozys. The real risk, when looking at the Italian example over recent years, is a debate reduced to a rift 'FAS' (for or against Sarkozy)."
By Helene Fouquet
May 9 (Bloomberg) -- Nicolas Sarkozy's post-election holiday aboard billionaire Vincent Bollore's yacht sparked criticism from opposition politicians and political analysts who said it sends the wrong signal to voters from the outset.
``He wants to set a new tone for the presidency, a new style,'' said Dominique Reynie, a senior researcher at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. ``But it's perilous, because it may not be accepted outright in a country where equality is almost a religion.''
Sarkozy, who officially succeeds Jacques Chirac May 16, left Paris in a private jet the day after his May 6 victory to the Mediterranean island of Malta. He embarked on a 60-meter (198-foot) yacht owned by Bollore with his wife Cecilia, his 10- year-old son Louis and his two step daughters.
``It may be ostentatious and shocking for the great number of French people who have a hard time making ends meet,'' Elisabeth Guigou, a former Socialist minister, told iTele cable- television news today, saying it was a show of ``contempt.''
The president-elect had already come under fire for maintaining relationships with leading French businessmen. Centrist presidential candidate Francois Bayrou criticized him during the campaign as a ``friend of billionaires.'' His Socialist opponent, Segolene Royal, called him an ally of the ``media-financial establishment.''
Royal said his proposals to limit wealth taxes and weaken job security laws would be a boon to businessmen.
Bollore, whose holdings include stakes in advertising firms Havas SA and Aegis SA and Italian investment bank Mediobanca SpA, said earlier this year his assets total between 6 billion euros and 8 billion euros ($10.8 billion).
Sarkozy, 52, said last month that if chosen by the French people, he would retreat for a few days to ``measure the gravity of the task'' and ``take the necessary distance to become the man of the nation.'' He took 53 percent of the vote over Royal after four years as interior and finance minister under Chirac.
After his election, Sarkozy spent the night at the five- star Hotel Fouquet's Barriere on the Champs Elysees in Paris after partying with celebrities including pop star Johhny Halliday and addressing a crowd of as much as 30,000 at the Place de la Concorde.
A press officer for the President-elect said the Sarkozy family holiday was ``private'' and that it was not paid by his party nor by French taxpayers. Sarkozy is returning to Paris later today and will attend a ceremony with Chirac tomorrow to commemorate the abolition of slavery.
Bollore's yacht, the ``Paloma,'' was built in 1965 and can handle up to 12 guests and more than a dozen cabin crew. It's available for hire for as much a $245,000 a week, according to http://www.gaspardyachts.com , a yacht broker.
``That Mr. Sarkozy feels close to workers'' and ``to businessmen who create jobs . . . does not seem incompatible to me,'' said his aide Christian Estrosi on iTele today. ``I believe Mr. Bollore is a great businessman, I believe he pays a lot of taxes to contribute to France's solidarity.''
Sarkozy's cruise made today's headlines in all the national media today. The daily Liberation's front-page headline: ``Boat People.''