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In an uncharistically humble moment, French President Nicolas Sarkozy seems to have admitted to journalists it was possible he would lose the upcoming elections, France 24 reports.”For the first time in my life I am faced with the possibility that my career is coming to an end,” Sarkozy said in a three-hour off-the-record conversation with journalists (that they nevertheless published) on his visit to French Guyana on Sunday.
Sarkozy is trailing Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in opinion polls and has struggled with low approval ratings for months now.
Sarkozy also had some choice words reserved for his own ruling UMP party, saying he would prefer a religious cloister to active participation in party life if he lost the election. However, he did reportedly say that his 2012 campaign “will be very different from 2007.”
When asked what his plan was if he did lose, Sarkozy, a former lawyer, said he would quit politics, AFP reports. “Yes, I am certain. I am 56 years [and] I’ve been in politics for 35 years, I have a job, I will change my life completely, you will no longer hear about me if I’m beaten,” he said.
Opinion on whether Sarkozy’s words were a careless blunder or a PR gimmick remains divided.
“We should not be lured by the bait that the head of state has used,” wrote editorialist Philippe Waucampt of the Républicain Lorraine, a local daily from eastern France.
“The future UMP candidate would like to find in this very ‘human’ moment an opportunity to create a new image. Or find a new strategy to rebound [in opinion polls],” wrote Hervé Cannet in La Nouvelle Republique.
Jean-Luc Mano, a French communications consultant, said Sarkozy’s comment was a mistake. “There is a rule among political candidates that says you must never mention the possibility of defeat. It applies even to candidates whose support peaks at three per cent,” Mano told France 24.
But Freddie Winckler of the marketing firm J. Walter Thompson said the comments were Sarkozy “wanting to show the man behind the machine… the man who is getting ready to run into battle.”