Ratings boost for Sarkozy on back of French struggle
THE widening gap between what France and Germany pay to borrow money is "not justified," French Budget Minister Valerie Pecresse said yesterday.
Ms Pecresse added after a meeting of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's cabinet that the government was confident the European Central Bank would restore financial stability in the euro area.
Her comments came as new opinion polls showed that the crisis was boosting Mr Sarkozy's ratings, six months before presidential elections.
The French president's relentless crisis-management efforts, his performance during the G20 meeting in Cannes and the birth of a daughter have given his approval ratings the biggest bump in more than two years.
"The crisis can be an asset for Sarkozy," said Emmanuel Riviere, head of opinion polls at Paris-based TNS-Sofres. "It plays to his strengths: taking decisions, acting swiftly.
"But there will be a ripple effect if there are more euro-country rescues, more unemployment. Voters could go back to their old reflex and sack the incumbent."
While the latest gain is a much-needed boost for Mr Sarkozy, it may not be enough to catch up with his main challenger in the May 2012 election, Socialist Party lawmaker Francois Hollande, who has a 22-point poll lead.
The economic slowdown has forced Mr Sarkozy's government to slash 2012 growth forecasts twice in the past four months and to pledge budget cuts.
France's triple-A rating is under pressure from Europe's debt crisis. Rating agencies warned last month that France was among nations likely to be downgraded.
Mr Sarkozy (56) has made the protection of France's creditworthiness one of the government's main objectives. He has already announced €18.6bn in tax increases and spending cuts for 2012 and the following year.
"French people must roll up their sleeves," Prime Minister Francois Fillon said last week.