Yeux on France: Sarkozy a Presidential candidate
Les Yeux on France: Sarkozy to be Presidential candidate… and an old woman waits
In what La Marseille today referred to as ‘the ultimate non-scoop’, Nicolas Sarkozy finally made it official that he will be running for the UMP primaries for the French Presidency in 2007. The announcement was made on Wednesday, President Chirac’s birthday. The news made the front page of regional dailies across France on Thursday. Given that Sarkozy has been in perpetual campaign mode for nearly four years now, however, the story was virtually ignored by the national newspapers.
Thus the fact the Minister of the Interior will be running in the centre-right UMP’s primaries, due to close on 14 January 2007, has been confirmed. The winner will be endorsed by the party for the Presidential Election. None of the other candidates have yet declared themselves. They are most likely to include Minister of Defence Michèle Alliot-Marie, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, and possibly President Jacques Chirac.
(MARSEILLE – 1 December 2006) – A woman, at least 70 years old, labours up the stairs of the Chanot Park auditorium in Marseille on Friday morning. In one hand is her camera, in the other, a walking stick. Her mission is in vain: the security guards refuse to allow her entry to the Union for Industries and the Hotel Business (UMIH) conference. Roxanne Tillier has taken the train today from Cannes, on the Cote d’Aur, especially to see her idol Nicolas Sarkozy. Inside, the UMP politician is giving his first speech since making his candidacy for the 2007 Presidential Election official.
A journalist Roxanne knows had promised to meet her outside to let her in with his press pass, but the elderly woman missed the rendezvous. She struggles back down the stairs to wait for the Minister of the Interior. A handful of other earnest aged women are in the same situation, all with their cameras ready.
Shortly after 11am, the conference attendees emerge from the building, and a pack of journalists gather at the foot of the stairs, in front of the car awaiting the UMP President. Another Sarkozy fan, heavily made-up and armed with a disposable camera, asks journalists to give her a clear view. ‘I just want one photo’, she says, ‘Come on, Nicolas my dear!’ Silent, Roxanne Tillier stands timidly but determinedly at the back of the crowd.
Finally, the presidential candidate emerges, surrounded by mature men in suits. The journalists kick into action; the predictable media scrum ensues. Although temporarily blocked, Sarkozy makes it to his car without so much as a word to the media or his disappointed fans. ‘Sarko lied!’ complains one journalist as the car speeds away. The Minister’s conduct here is in stark contrast to that exhibited during his visit to Algeria last week, where his impromptu press conferences with journalists in exposed areas led a concerned police commander to interrupt the politician with: ‘It’s over now, that’s enough!’
As for Roxanne, not only did she miss out on a photo or the chance to hear Sarkozy speak, but she was also pushed over and knocked on the head during the commotion. ‘I came for nothing’, she sighs. Asked if she still feels the same about her favourite politician, she lights up and declares that she remains ‘a big fan’ of Sarkozy and his policies. She confides that she goes to all the meetings she can get to where he makes an appearance, mainly in Nice (next to Cannes). Today, however, she made the effort to come as far as Marseille, given the importance of the event.
Putting on a brave face in spite of her disappointment, Roxanne says she is going to treat herself to a bowl of bouillabaisse: ‘It’s the speciality here in Marseille, you know!’ Yet, with Sarkozy and his entourage long since gone and the area mostly clear of journalists and police officers, the elderly woman waits at the bottom of the stairs, her camera still in hand…
Thus begins Nicholas Sarkozy’s presidential campaign.
Yasmine Ryan is a graduate of the University of Auckland, in Political Studies and French language. She is currently completing a Masters degree in International Journalism at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Aix-en-Provence.