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Nicolas Sarkozy, Cherry-Picker

The buzz is growing about Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempts to woo center-left and socialist politicians. Yesterday, in the New York Times, James Kanter noted Sarkozy’s endorsement of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a socialist elder statesman, to head the International Monetary Fund:

President Nicolas Sarkozy has formally endorsed putting a prominent member of the Socialist Party opposition, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in charge of the International Monetary Fund, in yet another sign that traditional French politics is being turned on its head.

It is seen as another potential blow for the French Socialist Party, which has already had other leading figures from its ranks cherry-picked by Mr. Sarkozy to help run his new, reformist administration. Among other things, it would possibly remove Mr. Strauss-Khan [sic], a strong centrist candidate, from the running for a party leadership position.

Today, Charles Bremner, writing in the London Times, reveals the full extent of Sarkozy’s efforts, and of the outrage they’ve provoked among his political opponents:

Crying foul along with the Socialists, François Bayrou, the leader of the centre Democratic Movement party, said that Mr. Sarkozy was behaving “like a piranha loose in a bowl of goldfish.” Mr. Bayrou is one of the piranha’s big victims. After threatening for a time to defeat Mr. Sarkozy in the elections, he has been left with only three MP’s. The rest of his party has defected to Mr. Sarkozy’s camp, three of them as ministers.

After poaching six left-leaning MP’s as ministers Mr Sarkozy has rattled the Socialist leadership by continuing to woo party stars with job offers. The latest of these are Hubert Védrine, a former foreign minister, and Jack Lang, a popular Cabinet minister in the 1980s and 1990s. Mr. Védrine has accepted. Mr. Lang has been told that he faces expulsion if he accepts an offer to serve on a commission to propose changes to the Constitution. It has emerged that Mr. Sarkozy even telephoned Julien Dray, Ms. Royal’s campaign chief, with an offer of a place in his Cabinet.

Védrine, you may remember, popularized the use of the term “hyperpower” in the late 1990’s to denote (and criticize) the political hegemony exercised by the United States. But if Sarkozy continues at this pace, the word may come accurately to describe his own position within the sphere of French politics. L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace!



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