French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been dubbed “Nicolas Le Pen” by the Wall Street Journal after the president turned to far-right voters to aid his flagging re-election campaign.
The label links the far right presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, with the president, who has been accused of encroaching upon her ideological ground.
The President’s party immediately protested against what it saw as pure provocation by the American press, but the sobriquet will ring true for many in France, having witnessed Sarkozy’s campaign shift away from the democratic-republican values he and his party claim to defend.
Interior minister Claude Gueant recently declared that there is a hierarchy within civilisations, indicating the superiority of Christendom over Islam. He went as far as to say “French people do not feel at home anymore,” a comment pregnant with outdated nationalist convictions.
The President never contradicted his minister and ramped up the anti-immigrant rhetoric himself.
He officially declared that France has “too many foreigners” for the integration system to work properly and promised to halve the number of foreigners authorised to live in France.
He also suggested that immigrants weren’t in France to work but to take advantage of the social benefits provided by the welfare state.
More disturbingly, he officially legitimised Marine Le Pen’s polemic on halal meat, introducing the subject into his campaign debate, which some have construed as a denouncement of French Muslims.
Sarkozy finally gave credence to the idea that the Schengen Agreements - the laws that determine Europe's borders - should not only be revised. More surprisingly, Sarkozy suggested that France should suspend its participation if its demands were not to be accepted.
His repeated attacks on immigration are seen as an attempt to woo supporters of Le Pen's xenophobic far-right party of the first-round poll on 22 April. Sarkozy trails his Socialist rival, Francois Hollande, 29% to 27%, according to a recent poll while Le Pen comes in third at 17%.
After blaming immigrants for France’s problems and openly criticising Muslims, he is now insulting journalists.
On Thursday, the president called a French television journalist a "dickhead". He quickly apologised, but perhaps revealed just how much the pressure of the elections is praying on his mind.