Don’t rule out Sarkozy just yet for 2017 comeback


At the rate that the French political elite is going, Dominique Strauss-Kahn might be the last palatable option standing to challenge nationalist Marine Le Pen in the 2017 election.France Flag Icon

The decision by French prosecutors to open a formal investigation into former president Nicolas Sarkozy today, following his detention on Tuesday for questioning, is certain to rupture Sarkozy’s comeback plans to lead the French center-right in the April 2017 presidential election, leaving both major parties sullied by unpopular, unimaginative and possibly corrupt leadership.

But even as French and global analysts begin writing Sarkozy’s obituary, the current investigation, which involves Sarkozy’s alleged attempts to trade a job in plush Monaco to a judge in exchange for illegal information relating to another investigation, may not necessarily torpedo Sarkozy, even as the former president faces additional legal troubles in related corruption cases.

That will be especially true if Sarkozy is ultimately exonerated, given the aggressiveness with which French investigators have pursued Sarkozy. If he’s not found guilty, the investigations could actually strengthen Sarkozy, allowing him to play victim against an aggressive, out-of-control French judicial system. That’s a well-worn path that’s worked for other European leaders in the past, including former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Sarkozy has already compared the phone-tapping to East German Stasi tactics, and he appeared on French television Wednesday night to blast the ‘political exploitation’ of the legal system.

Nevertheless, Sarkozy will find it difficult to proceed with plans to retake the presidency of his center-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (UMP, Union for a popular movement) later this year. Sarkozy is believed to be keen on returning to the UMP presidency in light of former UMP president Jean-François Copé’s resignation in late May, related to accusations of falsifying 2007 campaign invoices to evade spending limits. 

The current scandal revolves around phone taps that revealed conversations between Sarkozy and his attorney, Thierry Herzog. Those taps, however, were originally designed to gather information about whether Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign was illegally financed with up to €50 million from former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi. 

The Herzog conversations, however, relate to yet another scandal, the  Bettencourt affair, in which L’Oréal heiress and socialite Liliane Bettencourt may have ferried illegal funding to Sarkozy’s reelection efforts. Though investigators ruled out charging Sarkozy in the Bettencourt matter, the case revolved around the admissibility of Sarkozy’s presidential diaries.

Sure, that’s a lot of scandal and a lot of circumstantial noise surrounding Sarkozy. But what happens if Sarkozy actually goes to jail?  Continue reading Don’t rule out Sarkozy just yet for 2017 comeback

After two failed efforts, Park turns back to Chung Hong-won as PM


Six weeks after the horrific ferry accident in South Korea that killed 300 people, and following two failed attempts to find a new prime minister, president Park Geun-hye (박근혜) has decided to retain Chung Hong-won (정홍원) after all.South Korea Flag Icon

Chung (pictured above) previously announced his resignation as prime minister on April 27, taking responsibility for the government’s performance in the aftermath of the Sewol ferry disaster, with the intention of stepping down as soon as Park could appoint a successor.

But along the way, Park ran into trouble.

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Her first nominee, Ahn Dae-hee (안대희), a longtime state prosecutor and a former South Korean supreme court justice appointed by the late former president Roh Moo-hyun in 2006, was nominated on May 22.

But Ahn (pictured abovewithdrew a week later on ethics concerns over the massive amount of money he earned in the months after leaving the supreme court.

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Her second nominee, Moon Chang-keuk (문창극), a former journalist and former editor of Joongang Daily, withdrew from consideration on June 24, after making comments at a church that Japanese colonization of Korea between 1910 and 1945 was God’s will, something of a controversial statement where Korean-Japan relations in the early 20th century still cause tensions. 

It didn’t help that many South Koreans felt Moon (pictured above) was unqualified to be prime minister, nor that Moon had often expressed nostalgic admiration for the regime of Park’s authoritarian father, Park Chung-hee (박정희), who ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979. 

Neither candidate even made it to a vote in the National Assembly (대한민국 국회).

Accordingly, in exasperation, Park announced late last week that she will retain Chung, a novel approach that has the benefit of giving South Korea a permanent government for the first time in six weeks, and it clears the way for the confirmation hearings of nine additional cabinet members. Continue reading After two failed efforts, Park turns back to Chung Hong-won as PM