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Cablegate: Sarkozy Addresses Rumors, Calls for Change in Tv

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

271703Z May 05

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 003708

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV FR
SUBJECT: SARKOZY ADDRESSES RUMORS, CALLS FOR CHANGE IN TV
APPEARANCE


1. (SBU) Summary: Nicolas Sarkozy, France's most popular
politician and president of the ruling Union for a Popular
Movement (UMP) party, confirmed recent rumors May 26 that he
and his wife Cecilia were experiencing marital difficulties.
Sarkozy, in a prime-time interview on a major network,
responded to a question, saying that his family, "like
others," was currently going through a difficult time.
Moving beyond family problems, Sarkozy sidestepped
speculation that he would replace Prime Minister Raffarin
after the May 29 referendum on the proposed EU Constitution
and, despite reports that he was resigned to its failure, he
proclaimed himself optimistic about the charter's chances of
approval by French voters. Most significantly, Sarkozy
launched an appeal for "major structural changes" regardless
of the May 29 outcome. End Summary.

Cecilia, You're Breaking My Heart
---------------------------------
2. (SBU) Rumors circulating in Parisian political circles
that Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Cecilia were having marital
difficulties picked up steam on May 22 following Sarkozy's
last minute cancellation of his appearance on a major evening
network newscast. On May 23, Sarkozy implicitly acknowledged
the rumors in a radio interview, but limited himself to
saying, "respect my family." Media reported May 23 that
Sarkozy had missed the television appearance due to a
"spectacular fight" with his wife and further speculation
placed Cecilia in Jordan over the weekend with an advertising
executive. Sarkozy tackled these rumors early in his May 26
interview on France 3 television, stating, "The truth is
very simple: like millions of families, mine has been
experiencing difficulties. We are in the process of
overcoming them. Do I need to say more? I don't think so."

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You're Shaking My Confidence Daily
----------------------------------
3. (SBU) Sarkozy appeared visibly shaken in public
immediately after the story broke, and there were additional
rumors of his depression over the incident. A number of
contacts, who claim that they have seen Sarkozy up close at
different events during the past week, report that he seemed
unsettled and "not his usual self." The media attention the
story drew is unusual given the French tradition of
refraining from reporting on the private lives of
politicians, led many to speculate that there were political
motives in spreading it. Center-left daily Liberation
attributed the rumors to Chirac allies within the UMP, and
the muckraking investigative weekly journal Le Canard
Enchaine wrote in its May 25 editorial, "Thanks to some
zealous advisers at the Elysee, all Paris is informed of the
marital misfortunes of Sarkozy." Sarkozy made similar
allusions during the interview, saying, "To get at someone,
some people are prepared to resort to all sorts of behavior."


Changing the PM Not Enough -- Structural Change Needed
--------------------------------------------- ---------
4. (SBU) Despite reports that he had privately questioned
only whether the defeat of the referendum would be large or
small, Sarkozy sounded an optimistic note in his interview.
"I still think the yes, can win," he said. "We the French
-- who want the Olympic Games, who want to host the world's
athletes -- we're not going to begin by saying 'no' to the
Europeans." Most notable was Sarkozy's call, regardless of
the outcome May 29, for "major structural changes." "The
question that we'll have to ask on the day after the
referendum is: 'What are we going to do with the remaining 22
months of Jacques Chirac's mandate?'" Seemingly downplaying
speculation about his possibly succeeding Raffarin, Sarkozy
emphasized that his proposed reforms would have to go beyond
changing the Prime Minister, stating, "Whichever man or woman
it is, what does it matter?'"

Comment
-------
5. (SBU) The probe into Sarkozy's private life is rare in
French politics, though some argue that Cecilia Sarkozy's
high profile and the couple's efforts to present themselves
as a power pairing open her to the same scrutiny as others in
public life. It is quite possible that, if not responsible
for the rumors of marital woe, Chirac's allies fanned the
flames and may have wished to portray Sarkozy as unfit for
the pressure of higher office. Sarkozy has clearly regrouped
from the initial shock, and the manner in which he addressed
the subject on May 26 appeared genuine and heartfelt.
Indeed, opponents' attempts to sink Sarkozy by airing his
dirty laundry could backfire; the unusual scrutiny may garner
sympathy with the French public. Sarkozy's resentment
certainly will deepen the rift between him and Chirac, making
even less likely that Sarkozy would be asked to serve as
Prime Minister. Sarkozy's call for policy overhaul
regardless of the referendum outcome further accentuated his
divergence with Chirac's state-oriented economic
conservatism.
WOLFF

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