France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has stirred some controversy just in time for France’s presidential campaign; to close the narrow gap between him and Francoise Hollande, who is outshining him in the polls, he has reached out to the Right:
“Today, we have a problem,” Sarkozy said on a televised speech Tuesday night, “Our system of integration is working worse and worse, because we have too many foreigners on our territory and we can no longer manage to find them accommodation, a job, a school.”
Such words were sure to push some buttons with this hot topic on the French scene, where the French national identity is considered by many to be more vital to the population than one’s religion or nation of origin. Sarkozy continued to delineate the measures he would take to answer the problem of “having too many foreigners”:
“Over the five year term I think that to restart the process of integration in good conditions, we must divide by two the number of people that we welcome, that’s to say to pass from 180,000 per year to 100,000.”
Such words have been viewed as an attempt by Sarkozy to garner votes that would otherwise go to his far-right challenger, Marine Le Pen. His stance here resonates with his earlier controversial comments, when he said he would answer the claim by le Pen that all meat produced in Paris is slaughtered according to halal and kosher laws that he would make grocery stores clearly label their meat:
“Let’s recognize everyone’s right to know what they’re eating, halal or not,” he said at a rally. “I’d like to see, therefore, the ticketing of meat according to its method of slaughter.”
Sarkozy is polling at 28 per cent compared to Hollande’s 30 per cent, not that he respects Hollande’s campaign. He said that “Francois Hollande is an intelligent man. I do not have a problem with him. The only thing is he has never held office at the state level. Honestly can you imagine Francois Hollande as president of France? Imagine it!”
If he can’t swing the extra support he wants, France will be doing more than imagining it. In answer to charges against Sarkozy that he is “president of the rich,” Hollande pledge a 75 per cent income tax rate for those who earned €1 million a year.
Sarkozy’s immediate hope lies in a rally in Villepinte this Sunday where he will speak to around 60,000 supporters, and where he is hoping to regain his edge in the polls.