Anne-Elisabeth Moutet

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French politics, never a happy place at the best of times, takes on a special hysteria when Nicolas Sarkozy appears. Just as an otherwise sensible New York friend once told me a decade ago, in all seriousness, that she’d like to kill the then president George W. Bush with a stake through the heart, and anti-Thatcher groups threw celebration parties when the Baroness died, the man some call the “elevator-shoed poison dwarf of Europe” provokes blinding rage in his critics.

Many of them, quelle surprise, belong to the media and chattering classes. Hence headlines on the Left and Right commenting on Sarkozy’s “defeat” as he was elected to the head of the UMP party with 64.5 per cent of the vote last weekend.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nicolas Sarkozy’s enemies, and he has many, had hoped for a perp walk, a Dominique Strauss-Kahn moment: their bête noire in handcuffs between two flics, with no tie or shoelaces, being snapped at the instant of defeat by a hundred press photographers, before being ignominiously arraigned.

That, at least, was (and still is) the plan: to ring the death-knell of a political career, started at 18, which brought this brash son of a Hungarian émigré to the leadership of the party founded by General de Gaulle, then to the Presidency of the French Republic in 2007, at the age of 52.…  Seguir leyendo »

François Hollande had pictured it for years: Nicolas Sarkozy, his vanquished adversary in the 2012 presidential election, slumped in the back of a Citroën saloon, his necktie loosened, his face grey with fatigue, after a gruelling 15-hour interrogation. Sarkozy has been charged with corruption and illegal use of his influence. He now faces, in theory, up to 10 years in jail and a fine of one million euros.

He had faced charges before (the previous ones, accusations that he received money from the L’Oréal billionairess Liliane Bettencourt, were dismissed last year) but this was the first time he, or indeed any former president, had been held in custody for a day.…  Seguir leyendo »

The historic defeat suffered by François Hollande in the polls last weekend sucker-punched the president into naming his main political rival for the Élysée as his new prime minister.

Manuel Valls, the interior minister whose blunt manner and tough immigration policies earned him the nickname of “Sarkozy’s clone”, will succeed the wishy-washy Jean-Marc Ayrault as Hollande makes a desperate final bid to avoid becoming the most unpopular president of the Fifth Republic.

Like practically every political change in the past two years of his presidency, the announcement was messily handled. It was initially supposed to be made by Hollande in a formal television address at 8pm last night.…  Seguir leyendo »

The President’s indecision was nearly final. Yesterday, after denials and counter-denials from the Elysée, François Hollande finally announced, “as a private person” – supposedly wholly distinct from François Hollande the President of France – that he was separating from Valérie Trierweiler, his partner of eight years (or nine, or possibly 10), bringing to a close a crisis that started with the publication, on January 10, of pictures showing him coming out of a lover’s flat.

Hollande had been having a two-year affair with Julie Gayet, an art-house film actress and separated mother-of-two who had been introduced to the President by his son.…  Seguir leyendo »

A poll on the front page of last Tuesday’s Le Monde, that bible of the French Left-leaning Establishment (think a simultaneously boring and hectoring Guardian), translated into stark figures the winter of François Hollande’s discontent.

More than 70 per cent of the French feel taxes are “excessive”, and 80 per cent believe the president’s economic policy is “misguided” and “inefficient”. This goes far beyond the tax exiles such as Gérard Depardieu, members of the Peugeot family or Chanel’s owners. Worse, after decades of living in one of the most redistributive systems in western Europe, 54 per cent of the French believe that taxes – of which there have been 84 new ones in the past two years, rising from 42 per cent of GDP in 2009 to 46.3 per cent this year – now widen social inequalities instead of reducing them.…  Seguir leyendo »