Nicolas Sarkozy seeks French presidency: Corruption, legal scandals marked his last tenure

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced in his book Tout pour la France (All for France) that he has decided to be a candidate in the 2017 presidential election.

In an extract released on Facebook and Twitter, he wrote, “I decided to run for the 2017 presidential election. France demands that we give her everything. I felt I had the strength to lead this battle during this troubled time of our history.”

The “troubled time of history” refers to the state of emergency since the terror attack in Paris in November last year. This was followed by a driver ploughing his truck through a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing more than 80 people.

France also reels under a deep economic, social and political crisis. Unemployment has risen and the economy has flat-lined under President Hollande, reported The Telegraph.

Although France was not on the target list of the Islamic State during Sarkozy’s rule, he managed to contaminate his tenure with corruption charges and a number of scandals.

Sarkozy served as the French president from 2007 to 2012 and as this BBC report points out, “the country he left behind as he walked from the Elysee was not a happy one.”

His term became so infamous that he is remembered as France’s first president ‘not to be re-elected’ for a second term since Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1981.

 Nicolas Sarkozy seeks French presidency: Corruption, legal scandals marked his last tenure

File image of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. AP

Sarkozy is caught in multiple legal scandals, including the Bygmalion scandal. His party, Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), allegedly conspired with a PR company to hide the actual cost of his 2012 presidential election campaign.

France has a limit on campaigning expenditure. Employees of the company have accepted allegations and several UMP members are facing charges.

According to BBC, he is under investigation for "suspected illegal financing of an election campaign for a candidate, who went beyond the legal limit for electoral spending," the Paris prosecutor said.

Apart from this, he has allegedly also tried to influence senior judges who were looking into his charges and an anti-corruption team in Nanterre has also placed him under formal investigation.

In 2013, he was reportedly charged with taking advantage of the L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. However, the case against him was later dropped. The infamous ‘L’Affaire Bettencourt’ involved the country’s richest family and Sarkozy. He was charged with “exploiting the weakness” of the world’s richest woman, who suffers from dementia, according to Forbes.

Another inquiry revolves around Sarkozy receiving campaign funding from the late Libyan strongman Col Muammar Gaddafi.
According to The Guardian, the French investigative website Mediapart claimed to have seen a confidential note suggesting that Gaddafi contributed to Sarkozy’s election fund in 2007.

Sarkozy also seems to contradict himself. When he lost to Hollande and left the Elysee Palace, he said he was leaving politics and would find a different way to serve his country, reported Fox News.

However, nothing is as convenient as good old politics. He returned to politics in 2014 after sensing the “hopelessness, anger and lack of future” among the French.

The unemployment rate was high and the purchasing power had decreased under Sarkozy, according to The Foreign Policy Journal. The retirement law of increasing the retirement age from 60 to 62 and a full pension age from 65 to 67 irked the labour unions, which held demonstrations for several weeks.

However, he has also been credited with sending warplanes into action against Gaddafi's forces in Libya and brokering an end to the August 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia, reported BBC. He pushed through the no-fly UN resolution and bombed Gaddafi's tanks.

In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crises, he developed a close working relationship with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Hollande has been disapproved by 90 percent of of the French according to a new poll, The Washington Times report said. In 2013, he was called the "most unpopular president in recent French history" for the first time, following approval ratings of 26 percent. Sarkozy's ratings, however, never fell below the 30 percent landmark.

Updated Date: Aug 23, 2016 15:02:26 IST