A “lie” and an “infamy orchestrated by François Hollande’s supporters”: this was Nicolas Sarkozy’s reaction to yesterday’s stunning revelation by Mediapart, a news website. Mediapart says that it has documented evidence proving that the Gaddafi regime illegally funded Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign. The document refers to a meeting that allegedly took place in 2006 between Brice Hortefeux, Sarkozy’s close ally, and Ziad Takieddine, a Franco-Lebanese businessman and a “middleman” between the Libyan regime and Sarkozy’s circles. Takkiedine has been at the centre of several financial scandals involving rightwing politicians in France and Middle East countries. He is now under investigation by French justice for serving as an intermediary in a deal to fund Edouard Balladur’s 1995 campaign. Balladur’s campaign manager at that time was none other than Nicolas Sarkozy.
Contacted by Mediapart, Takkiedine said that although he was not present at the meeting, the document appears to be genuine. In an article published today, Edwy Plenel, Mediapart’s editor-in-chief, stands by the story. He strongly defends the probity and professionalism of his journalists and argues that press freedom is not a “journalist’s prerogative”, but a “citizens’ right”. Plenel suggests that Sarkozy detests Mediapart because unlike other media in France, he can’t influence, bully or threaten the website’s journalists. Insults and no proper answer to these extremely serious accusations: this is what we have had so far from the Sarkozy camp. If those allegations are an “infamy”, Mr President – and they truly are - why don’t you sue Mediapart for slander? Having read Mediapart’s extensive reports on Takkiedine’s various shabby deals, I am convinced that Sarkozy will not sue the news website.
In the meantime, Sarkozy’s hard right campaign on immigration and law and order is alarming more and more UMP officials. They fear that if the incumbent president loses next Sunday, the UMP might implode. At a rally in Toulouse on Sunday, Nicolas Sarkozy exalted “the love of fatherland”, “French identity” and the “defence of France’s border”, which is allegedly key to sorting out all major problems including immigration and economic issues. More confrontational than ever, he promised that on Labour Day, ordinary workers will be marching behind the tricolour banner whereas Hollande will be behind the CGT’s red flag.
Several UMP officials have already had enough with their party’s “Lepenisation”. In an article published in Le Monde over the weekend, Dominique de Villepin said he was “appalled” by Sarkozy’s drift toward the extreme right. Etienne Pinte, a close ally of François Fillon, argued that the French are not worrying first and foremost about immigration, national identity and border control, but about unemployment, wages or housing. Senator Jean-René Lecerf told Europe 1 that he was dumbfounded that Patrick Buisson, a man of extreme right sympathies, could be Sarkozy’s special campaign advisor. Lecerf taught me constitutional law in the 1980s. He is a “social Gaullist”. Contrary to Sarkozy, he understands that workers have to fight to defend their economic situation and professional status.
One day, students were on strike over the question of tuition fees. Some of us decided to occupy his class. Lecerf spent the whole hour arguing against our position from a Gaullist perspective. Afterwards, he never harboured any hard feelings against us.