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Sarkozy's chance to live up to his ambitions

Sarkozy's chance to live up to his ambitions

Nicolas Sarkozy is a populist and an economic liberal. Those two themes fought it out in his brief time as France's finance minister. He is also highly ambitious. That theme took the upper hand at the end of the summer. He is leaving the cabinet in order to run the UMP party and prepare for a presidential campaign.

That is a sharp move for a future national leader.

Sarkozy would have liked to be prime minister. And he would have liked to stay in the cabinet while running the party. But president Jacques Chirac does not like him. He was not able to get rid of Sarkozy – the man is too popular – but he was able to make him choose between the cabinet and the party. Sarkozy chose the party. And Chirac was forced to endorse his candidacy.

That choice makes sense for this ambitious politician, for three reasons.

First, he can leave the finance minister post while being counted a success. Sarkozy's response to higher than expected tax revenues has been firm. He has resisted pressure to use the money to expand social programmes.

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