With his Napoleonic haughtiness and his Italian humorist style, Nicolas Sarkozy has climbed all the steps of the Republic to the detriment of media blows, authoritarian outbursts and political betrayals. He started as mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, an affluent suburb of Paris, where he became known after negotiating alone, but living on a national channel, the release of children hostage to an imbalance.
He continued as Minister of the Interior of Jacques Chirac’s second government in the early 2000s. His promise to clean up the French suburbs with the “car wash” is remembered as the beginning of the “lepénisation” of the political class. .
Between 2007 and 2012, he invented the “policy of openness”, a strategy which consisted in plundering the cadres of the opposition parties and, above all, in exasperating their socialist rivals. Followed by a horde of fans, master of the art of playing on the borders of ideological camps, Sarkozy is the last political animal to have presided over France.
But the daring son of a Hungarian immigrant, obsessed with being respected by the Parisian elite, also had deep ties to the underworld. Sarkozy entered politics in the hands of Charles Pasqua, a former World War II resister who served in the ultranationalist militias that opposed the decolonization of Algeria.
Minister and center-right tutelary figure, his fingerprints have been found in obscure businesses such as illegal casinos and arms trafficking to African countries. It is with the support of the “Pasqua clan” that Sarkozy built his political career. It is therefore not surprising that the Joe Pesci of French politics was involved in a large number of schemes during his tenure as president.
Investigations show how Sarkozy’s gang tried to bypass public funding constraints for their failed 2012 re-election campaign. In a cartoon episode, his then party’s treasurer, the UMP, was recorded by the butler of the powerful but senile Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the L’Oréal Group, asking for the second box for the electoral campaign.
But Sarkozy’s big problem is with Mouammar Gadhafi. His relationship with the Libyan leader is inconsistent to say the least. In 2007, months after being elected president, Sarkozy let the autocrat pitch his traditional Bedouin tent in the gardens of the presidential palace. On this occasion, France announced a “Mediterranean Union” with a strong orientalist tone, the main objective of which was to politically rehabilitate the dictatorships of North Africa and the Middle East.
In 2011, at the height of the Arab Spring, Sarkozy led the attack by Western forces on Tripoli, which resulted in the horrific death of Gaddafi, literally devoured by protesters.
For the French authorities, Sarkozy’s sudden passion for the democratization of the Arab world is not enough to explain the rapid deterioration of his friendship with Gaddafi. It was precisely during the investigations into the “Libyan affair” that the French police came across another crime involving the ex-president.
The staples revealed that in 2014, Sarkozy conspired with his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, to bribe Gilbert Azibert, the magistrate responsible for the investigation of Liliane Bettencourt. This umpteenth scandal became known under the name of the “Paul Bismuth” affair, which was the pseudonym used by Sarkozy in his confidential conversations, and earned the former president a three-year sentence pronounced on Monday 1st by a Parisian court. .
For the French, the outcome is hardly a surprise. Nicolas Sarkozy has never been known for his unassailable ethics. In recent years, other politicians close to him have been the subject of investigations and convictions, such as Patrick Balkany.
His conviction arouses an ambiguous feeling: on the one hand, it is the punishment of the old politics, which the French despised by voting for Emmanuel Macron in 2017. On the other hand, Sarkozy is remembered as the last political passion. French people who must now support Macron and his charisma as manager of a bank branch inside. The French know Sarkozy is a sinner, but they will need time to let go.