Sarkozy government in 'final act', says leading socialist

NICOLAS Sarkozy presides over a government in its “final act”, with the conditions for his defeat in France’s next presidential…

NICOLAS Sarkozy presides over a government in its “final act”, with the conditions for his defeat in France’s next presidential election now falling into place, a leading socialist has claimed.

With both Mr Sarkozy and his opponents on the left claiming to have emerged strengthened from the acrimonious debate over pension reform, which was finally passed by parliament last week, the former leader of the Socialist Party (PS), François Hollande, said the “objective conditions” for the president’s defeat in the 2012 election had come together.

“His term is ending in failure,” Mr Hollande said. “His ruling bloc is more divided even than it seems. There is fierce anger towards him, his behaviour, his choices and the injustice which has been the hallmark of his term.”

The government was “disintegrating” and playing out its “final act”, he added.

Mr Hollande, who plans to challenge for his party’s nomination for the 2012 election, has become more prominent in recent weeks as leading figures on the left jockey to capitalise on Mr Sarkozy’s troubles.

Amid speculation that prime minister François Fillon could be replaced by the centrist Jean-Louis Borloo in order to soften the government’s image after months of polarising controversies, Mr Hollande was dismissive of the prospects for change.

“How can one imagine that the next government will not pursue the same policies as the current one?” he told Le Monde.

Mr Hollande said he was open to alliances with smaller left-wing parties such as the Greens and the Communists, but as the “principal force” in any pact, it was for the PS to show leadership and initiative.

Mr Hollande’s return to the political limelight has fired Paris’s political intrigue machine. Having split with Ségolène Royal, the father of his four children, after she lost the 2007 presidential election, the economics specialist recently took the uncharacteristic step of giving a candid interview to a celebrity magazines to announce his relationship with a prominent journalist.

His chances of securing the socialist nomination hinge on the decisions of the two front-runners, current party leader Martine Aubry and IMF director general Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

If both were to renounce their ambitions, Mr Hollande would be likely to find himself in a direct contest with Ms Royal. She cannot yet bring herself to speak her former partner’s name, referring to him in public merely as “the former general secretary”.