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Could Nicolas Sarkozy really make a political comeback in France?

On 27 June, a ghost of French past made headlines again: Nicolas Sarkozy, who was the countrys president between 2007 and 2012, published a new book, Passions, in which he tells the story of his rise to power and recalls his political relationships with various figures of the French right and centre right.

Across the channel, the book made news not because of its contents — despite pre-publication secrecy, there are no major exclusives in its 368 pages — but because of its timing. Les Républicains, Sarkozys former party, were freshly humiliated in last months European elections, finishing fourth with just 8.5 per cent of the vote.

Sarkozy, or “Sarko” as the French know him, failed to secure a second term in the 2012 presidential election against Socialist François Hollande, and duly announced he was “definitely quitting politics”. (But since Sarkozy was not exactly known for telling the truth, few in France believed him.)

Indeed, there have been previous Sarkozy comebacks: he returned to lead Les Républicains (formerly UMP) in 2014 and ran in the partys 2016 presidential primary only to be eliminated in the first round. It was Sarkozys former prime minister, François Fillon, who instead won. In the same year, Sarkozy notably released two separate books about his dedication to the French nation, France for Life and All for France. He once again “quit politics” after his defeat.

But this time, Sarkozy is adamant: his new memoir does not foreshadow a return to politics. “This is not a political book, it does not announce my return [to politics],” he told the French magazine Le Point. “I neither want to, nor can be involved in a partisan debate. This would create confusion and division, and it is unnecessary. It would be inappropriate.” He added (as he did in 2012) that “what I am telling you is definitive”. Sarkozy also told Le Point that he considers himself “no longer adapted to the new world” of French politics — the one that Emmanuel Macron atomised, destroying first the traditional left and then the right, through his 2017 presidential victory. Later in the interview, however, Sarkozy emphasised that “between me and France, it will never be over. Until my last breath.”

The book has prompted debate over Sarkozys possible return, raising some hopes among Républicain ranks. If he returns, Sarkozy will not be the first French politician to break his word (recall that in 2016 a youthful economy minister named Emmanuel Macron launched a “debate group” and promised his boss, François Hollande, that it wasnt a party).

As the centre rights last serving president, “Sarko” still commands respect among the Républicains and remains one of their few influential figures. Since the European election humiliation, politicians have been quitting the party in droves. A poll this month found that 42 per cent of the population no longer regard the party as capable of taking power on its own.

Shortly after Républicain leader Laurent Wauquiez resigned, the president of the Paris region, Valérie Pécresse, left the party, warning that “We must renovate everything, from ground to ceiling.” Seventy two right-wing officials have also published an open letter in support of Macrons government, writing: “We want this government to succeed, because nothing can be built on their defeat.”

Could Sarkozy be the captain who saves the sinking ship? In his new book, the former president writes of the centre-right movement that he used to “aspire to gather around himself”, but laments that “division now seems inevitable” among his party. “In the end, I fear that each might be disappointed [in the results],” Sarkozy writes of those who have launched personal movements.

He also excoriates François Fillon, who served as his prime minister, describing him as someone who “seems a very different man to how he really is”. But even for Sarkozy, one of the last Républicain tenors, openly criticising the centre-right presidential candidate (who won 20 per cent of the vote despite a financial scandal) might not be a great strategy. “Sarko” risks alienating the conservative wing of the right coalition, who might switch to the “other”, more extreme but much more successful, leaders of the French right: Marion Maréchal, or her aunt, Marine Le Pen.

Sarkozy also has much else to occupy himself with: he is currently facing charges of corruption, influence peddling and illegal funding in his 2012 presidential campaign. On 19 June, it was announced that, despite his lawyers best efforts, Sarkozy will face trial in a corruption case over charges dating back to 2014. (Remarkably, despite this being the first time a former French president has faced prosecution for corruption, there is no mention of this, or any other charges, in Sarkozys new book.) In 2017, Fillon was exposed in a “fake jobs” scandal, and the right has been enfeebled ever since. But as desperate as they currently are, will the Républicains bet on a horse embroiled in not just one but several cases of corruption?

Sarkozys new memoir will probably be a bestseller: it has a publication run of 200,000 copies and his previous books, both released in 2016, sold 270,000 copies combined. But success in bookshops does not necessarily translate into political triumph: as a radio commentator Read More – Source