It isn’t very much fun being Nicolas Sarkozy at the moment. It’s not a job I would apply for.
The former French president is now the target of so many different criminal investigations, that newspapers and magazines have had to publish special supplements so that their readers can keep up. In spite of this, Sarkozy really seems to imagine that he could once again be president of France. His personality – two thirds ambition, one third greed – probably stops him thinking in any other way.
Nonetheless, every week seems to bring a new scandal. The latest, confirmed yesterday, is the rejection of his accounts for the 2012 Presidential election campaign. This amounts to two things, in practice. First he himself will have to repay some hundreds of thousands of Euros improperly spent. Second, and more important, his party will have to repay more than €10 million of taxpayers money to which they were entitled in the campaign.
Pretty much all of the multiple scandals surrounding Sarkozy appear to have their origin in his inability to understand the difference between his own bank account, the funds of his party the UMP, and the money of the French taxpayer. So the possibility of Sarkozy being the first former president of Fifth Republic France to serve a prison sentence, or possibly several, certainly can’t be ruled out.
But behind all of this is a really delicious irony Sarkozy’s party, the UMP, is supposed to be the party of practical businessmen. Massively backed by industrial and financial interests, and drawing its support primarily from the self-employed and those who work in the private sector, it has always put itself forward as the alternative to inefficient Socialist economic management.
Now, it has become clear that, in practice, the party is not only very badly managed, it is also deeply in debt. Hopelessly, terribly, deeply in debt. It owes around €50 million to different French banks, and by some measures is actually bankrupt. The decision that the 2012 accounts were invalid, confirmed yesterday by the Constitutional Council, means that the party is another €10 million in he red, with no obvious means of repaying the money. Emergency plans have been put into effect. The party’s employees (those who are still there) are now being asked to pay for their coffee every day. But this may not have the effect desired.
Meanwhile, the reptilian Jean-François Copé, the sort-of leader of the UMP, accepted by some but not all of its members, has been reduced to making a public appeal for party members to send donations, no matter how small. Whether the pensioners and small traders who are the bedrock of the UMP’s support will actually put five Euros in an envelope and send it to Copé remains to be seen. Maybe they’ll just go and vote for the Front National instead.
What a joke. What an absolute shambles. You couldn’t make it up.