Sarkozy Says ‘Despair’ in France Reason for Return to Politics

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said “the French model has to be re-thought” to stop young people leaving the country to look for work. Photographer: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy said he couldn’t stay out of politics, noting that he has never seen such “despair” in France.

“I have never seen such anger in this country, such a lack of perspective,” Sarkozy said on France2 television last night in his first interview since announcing on Sept. 19 that he’s in the running to lead his political party. “Being just a spectator would have been an act of abandonment.”

The decision, which may be a stepping stone to the 2017 presidential race nomination, reversed his pledge in May 2012 that he was leaving politics after his defeat by Francois Hollande. His return comes as his UMP party has been riven by succession battles, and as Hollande finds himself France’s most unpopular president in more than half a century.

Sarkozy said yesterday that he never lied to the French during his five years in office, saying, however, that Hollande has left behind him “a long list of lies.”

Sarkozy said “the French model has to be re-thought” to stop young people leaving the country to look for work.

“When capital moves freely, if you raise taxes how can you expect to keep companies?” he said. “If companies’ margins go down, how can they hire? There are solutions, France is not condemned.”

Sarkozy’s return to politics may pose a further hurdle to Hollande, 60, whose popularity rating stands at 13 percent, according to a recent poll. Opinion surveys show voters don’t want Hollande to run for re-election and he would stand little chance if he did. The French economy has barely grown during his two years in office, and the number of jobless has risen to a record 3.4 million from 2.9 million when he assumed office.

Legal Woes

Sarkozy said he wasn’t concerned by the series of legal probes he faces.

“If I were, I wouldn’t be returning in the public’s view,” he said.

Sarkozy said he wanted to “reconquer” the French who have been seduced by the anti-European Union message of the National Front’s Marine Le Pen.

“It shows the despair of the French that they think that the world’s fifth largest economy can detach itself from the world,” he said.

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