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Sarkozy turns his back on Anglo-Saxon liberalism

www.breakingviews.com

Remember Nicolas Sarkozy, the free marketer? Sarkozy was a successful French interior minister. His leadership was marked by his courage.

During the French local elections in March, Sarkozy argued that the right's economic reforms had been poorly sold to the voters, concluding that the "French people are demanding that we go faster".

On the cult French satirical television programme Les Guignols, he is even portrayed as a seedy salesman, flogging gold watches pinned to the inside of his raincoat.

But Sarkozy seems to have undergone a transformation since he succeeded Francis Mer as finance minister following the elections, which were seen as a serious setback for the right.

Now Sarkozy is singing from a different song sheet. "I don't give a damn about Anglo-Saxon economic liberalism," he told workers at state-owned utility EDF last month.

If Sarkozy confined his anti-markets stance to rhetorical flourishes, it would be one thing. But one month into his new job, he has just sketched out his economic and industrial policies. They are not encouraging.

Although Sarkozy's targets for the public finances are laudable, he has not given a credible account of how he will achieve them.

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