Nicolas Sarkozy said the turmoil in Spain shows why French voters must not hand power to Socialist Francois Hollande, at least the fourth time this week he singled out his southern neighbor’s woes in his re-election bid.
“My opponent says we shouldn’t take markets into account,” the French incumbent said in a speech today. “I have advice for you then: pay back all your debts, don’t borrow money. Then you won’t have to worry about markets,” he said in Saint Brice, north of Paris. “I don’t want France to suffer the fate of Greece and Spain, and that’s why I’m running.”
Sarkozy’s comment came after Hollande said today that he didn’t “fear any crisis” and that he “wouldn’t give in” to markets if he wins the election on May 6. Hollande led Sarkozy by six points in a Harris Interactive Poll on April 10.
The yield on Spanish 10-year bonds, which climbed to a four-month high of 6.02 percent yesterday, are approaching the 7 percent level that prompted Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek European bailouts and stoking concern Spain may succumb as well.
One of Sarkozy’s main campaign themes is that he has protected France from the penalties investors have imposed on Europe’s periphery. Spain’s rising debt yields and missed deficit targets, requiring ever-deeper austerity measures and threatening to reignite the regionwide crisis, have given traction to the French leader’s message.
“Look at Spain -- a great civilization, a friend of France -- and look at where seven years of socialism have left them,” Sarkozy said today. Socialist Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero was defeated by Mariano Rajoy last year.
Rajoy demurred when asked in Warsaw today to respond. “I am not going to seek controversy with any leader,” he said.
In contrast, Sarkozy today referenced the Spanish leader directly. “If you went to Rajoy -- a courageous, intelligent man -- and said ‘don’t take into account what markets say,’ he’d tell you, because he’s an intelligent man, ‘how then do I pay back my country’s debt?’”