- Title: FRANCE/FILE: President Nicolas Sarkozy aims to turn page on pension battle
- Date: 26th October 2010
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (OCTOBER 25, 2010) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (French) POLITICAL SCIENTIST, ROLAND CAYROL SAYING: "He is confident in himself. He is not a man who hesitates about actions and decisions. He's sorry about bad polls. Of course. He's sorry if people don't like him. But it doesn't prevent him from doing things, acting, proposing reforms. So that's probably a help for him." GRANDPUITS, FRANCE (OCTOBER 22, 2010) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PICKET LINES AT GRANDPUITS REFINERY, ONE OF 12 INSTALLATIONS THAT WERE ON STRIKE, AND WHOSE BLOCKING CAUSED PANIC BUYING THAT SPARKED FUEL SHORTAGES VARIOUS OF POLICE CLEARING PICKETS MARSEILLE, FRANCE (OCTOBER 23, 2010) (REUTERS) VARIOUS LOCAL COUNCILLORS IN MARSEILLE WEARING TRICOLORE SASHES CLEARING UP RUBBISH CAUSED BY STRIKES PARIS, FRANCE (OCTOBER 25, 2010) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) POLITICAL SCIENTIST, ROLAND CAYROL SAYING: "It is also possible that the situation will have changed in 2012. The international situation, the financial situation, the French economic situation. And we know that economic problems will be there in the minds of the people when they vote. So it depends on so many variables that it's impossible to say ... it is also possible the retirement dossier that seems so heavy now could be a good thing for him at the time of the election as he will be able to say 'I've made these reforms' ." NANTERRE, FRANCE (OCTOBER 19, 2010) (REUTERS) VARIOUS STANDOFF BETWEEN POLICE AND RIOTING YOUTHS/CARS BURNING
- Reuters ID: LVA9EJ4TGEVIZ72LTLBTO8I88MVE
- Duration: 00:01:55
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Story Text: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with his glamourous wife, Carla Bruni at his side, may be popular with the world's leaders but latest polls show that he is definitely not with his electorate.
Thousands of nationwide demonstrations, riots, wildcat strikes and fuel shortages have been the latest dent to the centre-right president who built his image on a 'can-do' attitude.
The protests are the latest in a string of scandals and upsets to dog Sarkozy's presidency, driving his approval ratings down to the lowest levels ever for a French president, in line with those of his predecessor, Jacques Chirac.
What will probably end up being known as 'the troubles of 2010' come hot on the heels of a scandal over France's expulsion of Roma and a controversy surrounding the fortunes of Europe's richest woman and scandal around her alleged links with top ministers, including Labour Minister Eric Woerth.
Roland Cayrol is a veteran political commentator. For years the head of one of France's top polling institutes and now at the Centre for the Study of French Political Life, he is used to charting the political fortunes of France's rulers.
His message? This will, inevitably, in the short term get worse, possibly making Sarkozy the least popular president of all time.
But as 2010 closes and next year begins, Sarkozy can but hope that France's leadership of the Group of 20 rich and emerging nations will rub off a little on him.
"He will have probably even worse scores in the polls in the next few weeks. He can recover. I think he counts on the G20, the G8, the international action that he will have which will be very visible. He hopes for some results on the economic situation and maybe in six months, nine months, something could be found in new polls. Who knows," Cayrol said on Monday (October 25).
But for the moment things look bleak in the extreme for the man once referred to as the 'hyper president' who promised to usher in an era of efficient government after his equally unpopular predecessor, Jacques Chirac.
Depending on the polls, approval is 27-29 percent, low indeed for a president voted in only three years ago and who might be hoping to win re-election in 2012.
Sarkozy says he doesn't care about the polls and has vowed to push through a pension reform he says is vital if France wants to keep one of Europe's more generous pension systems afloat.
Cayrol says Sarkozy will be counting on his determination and self belief -- something his critics say slam as an authoritarian refusal to listen to others.
"He is confident in himself. He is not a man who hesitates about actions and decisions. He's sorry about bad polls. Of course. He's sorry if people don't like him. But it doesn't prevent him from doing things acting, proposing reforms. So that's probably a help for him," he says.
The recent images associated with Sarkozy's presidency have not been favourable to him. Scuffles on the picket lines, riots in France's tinderbox-like poorer neighourhoods and rubbish piling up by the tonne on the streets of its second largest city, Marseille -- local councillors forced to pick up the trash themselves.
But, with time, things just might change.
Economic improvement and a more relaxed international financial climate by the times the polls come around, might all help restore the president's electoral fortunes.
"He is not a man who hesitates about actions and decisions. He's sorry about bad polls. Of course. He's sorry if people don't like him. But it doesn't prevent him from doing things. Acting, proposing reforms. So that's probably a help for him," Cayrol says.
With the deeply unpopular legislation due to receive its final assent in parliament this week, the equally unpopular president must be hoping that he'll finally be able to move on -- and rescue his dismal prospects in 2012.
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