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Viewing cable 06PARIS1681, SARKOZY ADVISOR ON FIRST EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT, END

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06PARIS1681 2006-03-16 15:03 2010-11-30 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
VZCZCXRO1418
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHFR #1681/01 0751531
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 161531Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5250
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 001681 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2016 
TAGS: PGOV ELAB PREL FR SOCI PINR EUN
SUBJECT: SARKOZY ADVISOR ON FIRST EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT, END 
OF VILLEPIN'S PRESIDENTIAL CHANCES 

REF: PARIS 953 

Classified By: PolMC Josiah Rosenblatt for reasons 1.4 (B & D). 

1. (C) Summary: Former Industry Minister and close Sarkozy 
advisor Patrick Devedjian predicted March 15 that student and 
labor union opposition to the First Employment Contract (CPE) 
was spreading and might yet become a major test for the 
government. In any event, he believed that PM de Villepin 
was finished as a potential presidential candidate. 
Devedjian blamed the current impasse squarely on Villepin's 
impetuousness and autocratic methods, which, while leaving 
the governing party (and Sarkozy) no choice but to support 
him publicly, had given the opposition Socialist Party a 
potent rallying call for coalescing against the government. 
He thought it possible but not likely that Villepin would be 
replaced, but ruled out a Sarkozy prime ministership as 
"suicidal." Devedjian nonetheless judged that knowledge of 
Sarkozy's "differences" with President Chirac and Villepin, 
despite his official support for the government, would spare 
him most of the electorate's wrath and leave him well 
positioned to win the 2007 party nomination and presidential 
elections. Devedjian saw Segolene Royal as the opponent to 
be most feared on the left, although he thought she might 
self-destruct if nominated by the PS, and believed that the 
PS would probably prevent her from winning its nomination in 
any case. Comment: Devedjian's views, reported here, are 
four parts hard analysis, one part wishful thinking. End 
comment and summary. 

2. (U) Patrick Devedjian, former Industry Minister and close 
advisor to Interior Minister and UMP President Nicolas 
Sarkozy, met March 15 with Embassy reps from the U.S., the 
UK, Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia to discuss the 
state of play with respect to the First Employment Contract 
(CPE) and its impact on the current government under PM de 
Villepin, as well as the line-up for the 2007 presidential 
elections. 

CPE and spreading unrest 
------------------------ 
3. (C) Devedjian described growing public opposition to the 
First Employment Contract (CPE) and declared he "was not 
optimistic" for the future, even if there was some hope that 
unemployment figures would begin to improve again. He 
predicted a turbulent period ahead -- beginning with the 
large demonstration planned for March 18 -- which would last 
at least one and one-half to two months, and judged that the 
government's only real option would be to try to ride out the 
storm in the hope that public opinion would eventually turn 
against the protesters. Although the government had promised 
a few amendments to the law to appease public opinion and was 
now expressing a willingness to engage in dialogue, Devedjian 
expressed concern that the manner in which the government had 
proceeded had resulted in uniting, or in his word, 
"coagulating," its adversaries. He concluded that 
developments had now moved "beyond the CPE." 

More important than unrest in suburbs 
------------------------------------- 
4. (C) Devedjian noted ironically that the students 
currently protesting against the CPE were relatively 
privileged and much more likely to find jobs than the 
uneducated and unemployed youths in the suburbs whom the CPE 
was intended to help. He saw nothing particularly unusual 
about this state of affairs, saying this was what always 
happened in France. He termed the November unrest in the 
suburbs "a revolt without a message" (sans discours), 
concluding that it was primarily a cultural revolt by 
third-generation immigrants. At the same time, he argued 
against multiculturalism, saying that the real problem lay in 
France's failure to inculcate adequately French culture and 
values into these unemployed youths and in the government's 
long-time policy of effectively ghettoizing immigrant 
populations in lieu of dispersing them throughout French 
society. He called for some kind of affirmative action and 
stressed the importance of demonstrating visibly that members 
of a minority can make it to the top. In sum, he did not 
appear to take last fall's suburban violence all that 
seriously. While the images of the unrest were spectacular, 
he said, they had little real (political) import. 

Villepin to blame 
----------------- 
5. (C) Devedjian viewed Villepin's impetuous personality and 
autocratic style as largely responsible for the current 
impasse. Villepin's decision, during the recent debate in 
the National Assembly, to let other ministers respond to 
hostile questioning and distance himself personally from the 
CPE would not succeed in attenuating this perception. 
Devedjian blamed Villepin for his refusal to engage in 
dialogue with the labor unions before proceeding -- in 

PARIS 00001681 002 OF 003 


particular with the generally pro-reform-minded CFDT that had 
supported Raffarin's pension reforms, and which had now 
turned against him. He criticized Villepin for repeating 
Balladur's mistake of 1994 of singling out one specific 
segment of the French public for reform, which to the French 
electorate smacked of discrimination and violated the 
principle of equality. Devedjian especially castigated 
Villepin's recourse to article 49.3 of the constitution to 
put a stop to parliamentary debate as "very dangerous" and a 
blow to the strength of democratic institutions. He decried 
France's "monarchical mentality," which viewed decisions in 
terms of decrees and offered solutions before discussing the 
questions. 

UMP trapped, but Villepin finished 
---------------------------------- 
6. (C) Devedjian described a UMP trapped by Villepin -- 
forced to support him on the CPE without enthusiasm because 
it was obligated to support the government. He believed that 
the government, having closed the doors to dialogue, no 
longer had any escape paths. Villepin's decision not to 
allow the opposition to debate the issue in parliament, if 
only as a venting exercise, had ineluctably moved the debate 
into the streets. Devedjian judged that the current unrest 
would spell the death knell for Villepin's presidential 
aspirations. If things got bad enough, he held out the 
possibility that Chirac would have to appoint a new prime 
minister, probably either Defense Minister Michele 
Alliot-Marie or Employment and Social Cohesion Minister 
Jean-Louis Borloo, while judging in the end that Chirac would 
probably stick with Villepin. Devedjian firmly ruled out the 
possibility of Sarkozy accepting the job as prime minister, 
which he said would be "suicidal." He did not believe that 
President Chirac would withdraw the law and suffer yet 
another loss of face. But whether the CPE remains or is 
jettisoned, Devedjian concluded, this would be the last 
reform pushed through by the current government. 

Socialists smell blood 
---------------------- 
7. (C) Devedjian said that the Socialist Party (PS) had now 
smelled blood and had come to the conclusion that its views, 
and not those of the governing party, were more 
representative of a majority of the French electorate. 
Moreover, this was the latest in a string of setbacks that 
included, inter alia, the failed referendum on the EU 
constitutional treaty, growing opprobrium directed against 
Chirac, and the recent wave of social unrest in the suburbs. 
Sarkozy, he asserted, was the best positioned to overcome 
this alienation, since the public and press largely 
understood that he supported the government but was different 
from it (solidaire mais different). This would remain so 
despite efforts by PS presidential hopeful Dominique 
Strauss-Kahn to paint Villepin and Sarkozy with the same 
brush. 

Sarkozy still the one to beat 
----------------------------- 
8. (C) Devedjian expressed certainty that Sarkozy would be 
nominated to represent the governing party during the first 
round of the 2007 presidential elections, and that he would 
fare well enough to be one of two candidates in the second 
round. He judged that Sarkozy's law-and-order reputation 
would ensure that most far-right National Front (FN) 
supporters would vote for Sarkozy in the second round, adding 
that the FN would die out with the passing from the scene of 
Le Pen. Devedjian acknowledged that Sarkozy, having first 
consolidated his right wing, would need to do more to attract 
centrist voters. He argued there was still time for this, 
noting that Sarkozy had already come up with a number of 
proposals that one normally would have expected to originate 
on the left, for instance that immigrant permanent residents 
be allowed to vote in municipal elections. 

Segolene Royal the best on the left 
----------------------------------- 
9. (C) Asked whom he feared most among the Socialist 
candidates, Devedjian named Segolene Royal, citing the 
difficulty of running against an "image". (Comment: 
Throughout the discussion, Devedjian stressed the importance 
of running on projects for the future rather than past 
accomplishments; no one, he said, won elections out of 
gratitude for what they had done. Jospin, despite his record 
of reducing unemployment, was proof of that. End comment.) 
Fortunately, he said only half in jest, the PS would likely 
refuse her the nomination and thereby spare Sarkozy the need 
to defeat her himself ("they will take care of her for us"). 
Devedjian said her candidacy could fall apart if she 
continued to commit gaffes such as calling on regional 
leaders to block government subsidies to mayors who apply the 
CPE, which was against the law. Also making fun of her 
repeatedly expressed admiration for British PM Tony Blair, 

PARIS 00001681 003 OF 003 


Devedjian judged that Royal, known for her support for family 
values and the work ethic, tended "to demobilize" the 
far-left, which would hurt her chances in the second round, 
since Communist Party supporters would not vote for her. 
(Note: Devedjian said that, to win, a party has to mobilize 
its own voters and demobilize those of the opposition.) 
Asked who would be the candidate if Royal did not run, 
Devedjian named former PM Lionel Jospin. But he predicted 
that Jospin's age and history would tend to work against him. 
(Comment: By contrast, Socialists often predict that voters 
will react "with nervousness" to the super-charged Sarkozy 
and gravitate toward a more reassuring figure. End comment.) 

Sarkozy's plans if elected 
-------------------------- 
10. (C) Asked whether Sarkozy, if elected, would attempt to 
push through a whole series of ambitious reforms in the early 
months of his office, before French opposition to change 
blocks further reforms, Devedjian said this would not be the 
case. The one exception would be the judiciary, where he saw 
a need for deep-reaching changes. He said he was also 
interested in changing the constitution to abolish article 
49.3 and reduce or abolish the possibilities for censure of 
dissolution or the parliament. He believed a move to either 
a more presidential (with the U.S. as model) or parliamentary 
system (as in the UK) could be accomplished by amending the 
existing constitution. 

Devedjian's plans 
----------------- 
11. (SBU) Devedjian said he would expect to be a part of a 
Sarkozy government, but he refused to speculate in what 
capacity, although he subsequently launched into a discussion 
of needed judicial reforms. (Note: Pundits predict Sarkozy 
would name him as Justice Minister.) In departing, he 
recalled warmly his February 3 meeting with EUR PDAS Volker 
and Pol M/C (reftel). 

Comment 
------- 
12. (C) Devedjian was friendly and animated, and in no hurry 
to leave. Sarkozy's circle has come to the conclusion that 
Villepin is now effectively finished as a potential 
presidential candidate, even though this clearly also 
represents wishful thinking on their part. Noteworthy was 
Devedjian's judgment that the CPE may yet prove to be a major 
test for the government, which contradicts the perception of 
many that opposition to the CPE has not reached crisis 
proportions. We'll know more following the March 18 
demonstrations. 


Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm 

Stapleton