The Economist retreu el “pragmatisme brutal” de Sarkozy i denuncia el seu “intervencionisme” i “populisme econòmic”, així com les seves reeferències a la “identitat nacional”. Tot i això, el setmanari britànic considera “que és l’únic candidat amb suficient valentia per predicar la “ruptura” amb el passat de la que França en té necessitat”.
Which leaves Mr Sarkozy as the best of the bunch. Unlike the others, and despite his long service as a minister under Mr Chirac, he makes no bones of admitting that France needs radical change. He is an outsider, born to an aristocratic Hungarian émigré father; he openly admires America; he is enthusiastic about the economic renaissance of Britain. He plans an early legislative blitz to take on hitherto untouchable issues such as labour-market liberalisation, cutting corporate and income taxes and trimming public-sector pensions.
But there are two doubts about Mr Sarkozy. As he showed in his brief stint as finance minister, he has most of the traditional French politician's meddlesome economic instincts, favouring a strong industrial policy, protected national champions and even interfering in supermarket prices. Recently he has taken to heaping blame on the European Central Bank for France's self-inflicted failings.
Such economic populism may merely be a ploy to win over an electorate that has long been averse to the market. But in Mr Sarkozy it is yoked to a second unattractive streak: a form of nativism, reflected in his harsh comments about immigrants and national identity. His supporters say he must tack right to lure voters from Mr Le Pen. But he is now so unpopular in the banlieues that—unlike Mr Le Pen—he has barely set foot in them during the campaign. As interior minister, he took great interest in how to improve the lives of French Muslims, but he has dropped all such talk as a candidate.
This may also explain the biggest defect in Mr Sarkozy's foreign policy: his fierce hostility to letting Turkey join the EU. Ms Royal has bravely supported the principle of Turkish membership. But this is unlikely to be put to the test for at least a decade, and on other EU issues, such as the future of the constitution, Mr Sarkozy has a more sensible, pragmatic approach than either of his main rivals. He is also the most likely candidate to repair France's tattered relations with America.
On the evidence of his career and his campaign, Mr Sarkozy is less a principled liberal than a brutal pragmatist. Yet he is the only candidate brave enough to advocate the “rupture” with its past that France needs after so many gloomy years. It has been said that France advances by revolution from time to time but seldom, if ever, manages to reform. Mr Sarkozy offers at least a chance of proving this aphorism wrong.