Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Kislev 5765 - December 8, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Sarkozy Supplants Chirac as Leader of Right-Wing Party

by Arnon Yaffe, Paris

Following a prolonged battle for control, French President Jacques Chirac's rival, Interior and Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, took over the governing right-wing party, Union for a Popular Movement (UPM), on Monday, at a lavish inauguration ceremony resembling a coronation. Some 50,000 mostly young participants received him with trumpet blasts, in accordance with the new custom of the French right, in an enormous hall at Le Bourget Airport.

Chirac, his rival, remained ensconced at the Elysees, watching from a distance as his control of the party, which has been the basis of his power with the help of the activists over two years before the presidential elections, began to fade. Chirac was trounced in the party elections by Sarkozy, who won 85 percent of the vote. This was the first time since Chirac set up the predecessor to the UPM, a neo- Gaullist party called Rally for the Republic, that he has lost control over it. Party activists see him as an old leader steering France toward isolation from the West, generating anti-France sentiments in the US, holding cruel Arab dictators in high esteem and directing policies of anti- Israeli incitement that stir antisemitism.

Sarkozy rose in the ranks—against Chirac's wishes—as a young politician cast from the outset as the next president. "I am prepared to realize the hopes for renewal and change on the wings of your energy," he told the thousands of cheering supporters. Chirac has controlled the political arena for 37 years, serving his own interests in the UPM as the absolute ruler of France. It still does not appear that he intends to step aside to make room for younger blood. Chirac's associates are trying to establish other political movements to thwart Sarkozy's rise and to lay the groundwork for a third presidential candidacy for their leader. Chirac and his handlers, experts in Machiavellian putsch and tactics, are working to advance former interior and foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, but he has no chance against Sarkozy. Chirac has had to come to terms with his rival's victory.

In his inauguration speech, Sarkozy was still forced to promise he would back Chirac if he was made the right's candidate for president. Later, he left no doubt he would be the right's only candidate. Sarkozy decided to forego his post as Finance Minister in order to serve in the party as a means of securing control. Observers anticipate a bitter struggle at the top between Chirac and Sarkozy. The socialists described the inauguration ceremony as "a feeble imitation of the crowning of Napoleon as Caesar 200 years ago." Sarkozy resembles Napoleon in his ambitiousness, short stature and energy. He has captured French hearts with his simple approach to all, while Chirac appears detached, pompous and condescending. Chirac has taken over all of the state's posts, provoking disgust. The French have grown weary of seeing him in power.

Sarkozy is known as a friend to the Jews and to Israel. As Mayor of Neuilly, the hometown of France's chief rabbi HaRav Yosef Sitrouk and his institutions, Sarkozy maintained close ties with the rov and the kehilloh. The press claims his mother is a descendent of Jews from Salonika, Greece. He claims he is Catholic.

Jews are hoping he puts an end once and for all to France's policy of subjection to the Arabs and will bring the country closer to the US and the West. The socialists attack him as "pro-American." Sarkozy intends to terminate what he calls the failed, adversarial policy toward the US and President Bush, and he wants to alter the world's impression of the "elderly France." He has a plan to eliminate the separation of religion from the republic and to fund religion and schools, in order to prevent the growth of fanatic Islam among France's 5 million Arabs.

In his inauguration speech, he said he would work to impose supervision on Islam and to make it conform with France's Western, democratic values, not allowing Arab countries to send Muslim instigators. He has shown the courage to speak out on issues others are afraid to raise, such as Islam's place in European society, the fight against Muslim terrorism and the preservation of Western culture. His effort as interior minister to establish order in Islam in France failed and the organization he founded fell into the hands of fanatics, such as a school for imams he set up in a palace using state funds.

Chirac will wage a campaign against him, together with the left, to preserve the anti-American policy referred to as French independence and the centricity of power. Chirac was elected in the previous elections with the left's assistance on the basis of nationalist, anti-American sentiments. Sarkozy will have to win the elections without the left's help.


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