French Cities Shift Parties as Sarkozy Loses Favor
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And let's go next to France, where voters have disposed of some supporters of President Nicolas Sarkozy. In a second round of municipal elections, opposition socialists took the leadership of dozens of French cities. They took them away from Sarkozy's Conservative Party, and the left says this vote is a repudiation for the president and his policies.
Eleanor Beardsley has this report.
(Soundbite of French TV broadcast)
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: French television showed the socialist opposition exploding in joy as dozens of cities swung from right to left. Among the left's top trophies, Strasbourg and Toulouse, two key cities previously held by Sarkozy's UNP Party. The vote was much like a U.S. midterm election and is the first electoral test since Sarkozy took office ten months ago. The left is calling it a major setback for Sarkozy and demanding that he change what they call his failed policies.
The right is playing down the results. Patrick Devedjian is secretary general of Sarkozy's UNP Party.
Mr. PATRICK DEVEDJIAN (UNP): (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: For me the message of this election is first of all one of impatience, said Devedjian. In the polls we see that the president's reforms are supported by the population. The problem is that people haven't yet felt their effects.
Sarkozy campaigned for president on a platform of economic reform. He said he would be the president of purchasing power. But since his election, the economy and purchasing power have worsened. At the same time, French voters have watched Sarkozy divorce, remarry, and conduct a high-profile romance with a former top model and pop singer. He gallivanted around the globe on millionaires' yachts and planes. French voters resent such behavior when things are going badly for them.
Franz-Olivier Giesbert, publisher of La Point magazine, says the election was not about Sarkozy's policies. It was all personal.
Mr. FRANZ-OLIVIER GIESBERT (Magazine Publisher): The real problem is his personality. People in France, they thought that they had elected a new Kennedy. Sarkozy was so charismatic during the campaign. But since he's elected, he really acted like a Tom Cruise, I would say. We say in French bling-bling. In English you would say show-off. And I think the French electors, they wanted to finish him. And that's what they did yesterday.
BEARDSLEY: The post-municipal election era could mark the beginning of a new phase in Sarkozy's presidency, if not in substance at least in style. For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.