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Last Updated: Monday, 6 August 2007, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Sarkozy sets blistering pace
By Emma Jane Kirby
BBC News, Paris

Nicolas Sarkozy in southern France, May 07
Two out of three French people now support Mr Sarkozy
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was elected on a promise that he would push through an ambitious programme of reforms to make France a much more dynamic and competitive country.

And he has spent his first 100 days energetically pushing for change.

He has offered cabinet posts to opposition Socialists, introduced schemes to help ordinary French people get on the housing ladder and intervened (some would say interfered) in international affairs, such as the release of foreign prisoners in Libya and the crisis in Darfur.

The press dub him "Super Sarko" because he never seems to stop.

Political analyst Dominique Moisi believes the new boy at the Elysee Palace is a hit.

"There is a sense that the country woke up after a long period of time and there is a sense of energy, a sense of optimism, a sense of confidence," said Mr Moisi.

"And it is reinforced by objective polls that the president has done extremely well for himself in the first three months of his presidency."

'Magic'

Two out of three French people now support Mr Sarkozy. But in the run-up to the elections he was accused of being too authoritarian and aggressive to govern France.

The French Minister for Higher Education, Valerie Pecresse, believes he has shrugged off his negative image by proving himself to be an inclusive politician and a man of action.

"He's showing his true nature now, and his true nature is to be very open", she said.

Nicolas Sarkozy
You can't be everywhere - even if you're the French president you're not God
Francois Sergeant
Editor of Liberation

"He chose a cabinet which reflects France as it is now with people from varied backgrounds, ethnically, politically - and quite a few women too.

"All this seemed impossible before - and that's the magic of Nicolas Sarkozy.

"He wants to move very fast because he thinks change cannot wait."

His promise to change France and to make it more dynamic and competitive was exactly what earned Nicolas Sarkozy the top job.

Since his election, he has already pushed through a raft of reforms, including measures aimed at helping people to work overtime without paying more tax, and tougher sentences for repeat offenders.

Honeymoon period

The editor of the left-leaning paper Liberation, Francois Sergeant, believes Mr Sarkozy will not be able to keep up the pace.

"I'm a bit afraid that he's doing too much," he said.

"You know you can't be everywhere - even if you're the French president you're not God.

"You cannot accomplish everything. When everybody's back from holidays in France in September I think it could be more difficult.

"I think the unions could react. So there is a honeymoon period, but like any honeymoon it won't last. "

The French are used to demonstrating their displeasure on the streets rather than through parliament.

If the government wants to speed up the pace a little bit, I think it won't work
Union boss Thierry Dedieu

Even after the most controversial so far of Mr Sarkozy's reforms - a bill to guarantee a minimum level of service during public transport strikes - the demonstrations were small and lacked conviction.

But Thierry Dedieu of the CFDT general workers' union worries that there is a lack of consultation.

"Mr Sarkozy's style is about speed but the social partners need time to reform the labour market," he said.

"If the government wants to speed up the pace a little bit, I think it won't work.

"We will commit ourselves in reforming the country, but it cannot be from one day to another."

At his inauguration, the new president swore he would never disappoint the French people.

When he returns from his summer holiday though, Mr Sarkozy can look forward to the thorny issue of pension reform.

It has brought down previous governments, but can Super Sarko pull it off?


SEE ALSO
Sarkozy scolds US photographers
06 Aug 07 |  Europe
French frown at jogging leader
04 Aug 07 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Profile: Nicolas Sarkozy
16 May 07 |  Europe

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