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"Kings are not born: they are made by artificial hallucination." George
"Kings are not born: they are made by artificial hallucination." George Bernard Shaw's famously caustic comment on royalty succinctly describes French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Almost a year ago, France was under his spell, and elected him president on May 6 of the past year. But by this spring the spell had gone.

On the eve of his first anniversary as president, Sarkozy admitted his mistakes and took responsibility for them, but urged his compatriots to work with greater zeal for a better life. "France was asleep for a quarter century. The problem is that it is not working hard enough," he told leading national TV channels. Sarkozy insisted that his performance should be judged in five years.

Sarkozy gave this interview, which Parisian newspapers dubbed the first "Sarko Show" since last January, to save his reputation and restore his shattered confidence rating. Elected by a majority of almost 57%, recent opinion polls show he is now supported by a mere 28 % of French voters. Some 79% do not see any changes for the better in France, while 64% have become disenchanted with his personality.

No French president has dropped so low as Sarkozy since the Fifth Republic was founded by General De Gaulle in 1958.

He has been ruining his reputation with amazing zeal. It is enough to mention his strange habit of showing off wealth, his shocking divorce, his love affair and marriage with model and singer Carla Bruni, a host of unfulfilled, semi-fulfilled, and forgotten election promises, a series of scandalous statements, and the start of open turmoil in his cabinet.

Sarkozy has promised much but done very little. Even his loud promise of a "dramatic reduction" in spending on bureaucracy has proved to be a bluff. Expenses were reduced by a mere 0.1 % of GDP, although France annually increases its national debt by 2.7% to keep afloat. The same is true of almost all Sakozy's promises.

Moreover, France finds it difficult to understand what the president wants of it, what he is doing with it, and what to expect of him. Almost every week he or his ministers announce new plans for reducing expenses and restricting benefits, only to give them up a day later. They do not even deem it necessary to explain to their compatriots the reasons behind their decisions. However, in his Sarko Show, the president promised to do this regularly from now on.

Sarkozy is actively promoting himself as a workaholic (his capacity for work is indeed great). It seems that he wants to set an example of how his compatriots must work for the homeland's benefit. But this bold initiative is not likely to get him anywhere. It is common knowledge that all workaholics that try to make others do the same never succeed. People do not like this, even less so in France with its propensity for idleness. According to Harris Interactive, an American sociological service, French citizens have 37 days of paid leave on average, which compares with 27 days in Germany, 26 days in Britain, and 14 days in America. On a par with cheese, wine and perfume, France's image always includes an idyllic picture of a rural or urban square, where delightful messieurs are lazily playing a game of boules. Former Labor Minister Jacques Barrot even called his compatriots a "society of boules players."

It's not that the French are so lazy. But they do not like the man who is trying to teach them to work well. Next, he will introduce a generally sensible bill, which is designed to stop such "boules players" from sitting on welfare. The cabinet is getting ready to pass a bill, which will deny unemployment benefits to those who refuse a job offer twice in a row.

It seems that Sarkozy is in for a fierce fight with the trade unions. This bill will not encourage the French to work more. They were not influenced even by the recently adopted law on tax breaks for overtime. Under this law, pay for extra hours is not taxed. But it did not work, although the French are notorious for penny-pinching in Europe, and are always ready to make more than they have.

But now they have many May holidays ahead, followed by the summer vacation season. But later on, Sarkozy will not have fewer headaches - his compatriots will be back.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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