New York City, Wednesday, 9. May– On Sunday evening here, the polling stations in France had been closed since two in the afternoon. But when I tuned into the TV–news on France–2 at 19:00 – one o'clock Monday morning in Paris – it showed voting in Saint–Pierre and Miquelon on Saturday. They were a day behind with the news. Luckily the Mets were playing in Arizona, or someplace else with extreme weather.
The TV–news let me down but I checked the Internet to get the bare details and there it was – Sarkozy scored! He was saying, babbling, it was a great victory for democracy – as if having a clean election in France was a rare event. I hope he can remember that 47 percent of the voters cast ballots for Ségolène.
Then, as was tradition in Paris, 5000 glum Ségo supporters gathered at Bastille under the watchful eyes of a great horde of heavily armored cops, and wouldn't you just know that a riot broke out – there were clouds of tear gas all over, heads were rapped, and 100 of the usual suspects were arrested.
Until very recently the new president of the République was its interior minister. Nicolas Sarkozy was the top cop in France. So how is it, if he's Mister Wonderful with all those voters, that the victory celebration saw 730 cars fried to cinders, 592 celebrants arrested, 78 cops injured – how many civilians hurt? – throughout France? Is he going to smarten things up a bit now he's the top cop's boss?
Paris, of course, is a royal pain in the popo for whoever is trying to run France. In the city Sarko just barely edged Ségo, by capturing 50.19 percent of the votes cast. Madame Royal actually won outright in 12 arrondissements out of 20. But what the heck – the official results to be announced by the interior ministry, will be made public on Thursday, May 10. No surprises are expected.
Much comment has been made along the line of, no sooner elected than he retires. Sarkozy and family stayed in a billionaire's luxo private apartment at the Hôtel du Fouquets on Sunday, then flew on a billionaire's private jet to Malta, where they boarded the huge luxo yacht that normally rents for 173,693 euros per week, owned by the billionaire Vincent Bolloré.
I recall that during the campaign he mentioned taking some sort of Zen trip before getting his hair mussed by the hurly–burley of running France, but I imagined him up an Alp with a wooly goat for a companion. The rumor was that the retreat would be on Corsica, but I always thought that was pure fantasy. Sarkozy never did clear out all the bombers there. Malta then, was a Sarko surprise.
Of course there's also a possibility that there may be a bit of humor in the situation. If my Ségo had won what would I talk about for the next five years? Her smile? But with Sarkozy, what was before, continues. Why just yesterday there was Silvio Berlusconi taking credit for being Sarkozy's inspiration. He was the model for Sarkozy he claims. Uncle Den–Den will be dining out on this for at least a year, saying that it's worthy of the Marx Brothers.
Meanwhile Jacques Chirac is getting ready to leave the Elysée Palace for good. His term as president of France ends at midnight on Wednesday, May 16. It remains unclear whether Madame Sarkozy will want to move into the government palace across the street from the interior ministry, or would prefer to return to the ultra luxo apartments on the roof of the ultra secure finance ministry building.
Tax–shy entertainer, Johnny Hallyday, who was said to be supporting the short president–elect, has let it be known that he might be tempted to return from his tax refuge in boring Switzerland. It is unclear whether he moved there after failing to gain Belgian nationality, or whether he got a better deal from the Helveticans.
Finally, most of what passes for insight about France in America, is off the mark if not outside the ballpark. Looking at France with an American viewpoint is totally useless because France is not America, doesn't pretend to ape America and refuses to be America, regardless of what Sarkozy says. He speaks for himself alone.
American self–interest certainly has a goal of seeing the entire world mirror America, but how true is it? Would it be advantageous for America to have France acting like America? I mean, where do you get your perfume, Airbuses, wines, TGVs, fancy duds, from now? Would it be better if this was all American stuff? And if France were like America, who would bother coming to visit? Folks like to see weird places, not the same–old, same–old. If there were no France, who would you call stinky?
We have to face it. A little more than half the voters got sucked in and voted for Sarkozy in good faith. He in turn will be claiming that everybody voted for him, and will eventually be somewhat surprised about how ungovernable the French can be – as they have often been in the past and will continue to be. Only Vichy methods can change the French, but it is unlikely that we will be going there.
This leaves Nicolas Sarkozy, right out there in the open, everybody's target.
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