Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy, Nicolas (Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarkozy de Nagy-Bocsa)nēkōläˈ pōl stāfänˈ särkōzēˈ də näzhēˌ-bōksäˈ, 1955–, French politician, president of France (2007–12), b. Paris. The son of a minor Hungarian aristocrat who immigrated to France and married the daughter of Greek immigrants, Sarkozy became a lawyer and entered politics as a conservative. He was mayor (1983–2002) of Neuilly, a Paris suburb, and was elected to the National Assembly from the Hauts-de-Seine dept. in 1988 and reelected in 1993, 1995, and 1997.

Sarkozy served in Premier Balladur's cabinet as budget minister (1993–94), and as Raffarin's interior minister (2002–04) he gained a reputation for being tough on crime and immigration. A longtime member of the neo-Gaullist Rally for the Republic party (RPR), he joined the new center-right coalition, Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). He was appointed finance minister in 2004, but resigned later that year to become UMP party leader; from 2005 to 2007 he again served as interior minister.

Popular and charismatic, but polarizing as well—especially when he staked out an outspoken law-and-order position in his second stint as interior minister—the energetic Sarkozy has been characterized as a media-savvy American-style politician. In late 2006 he announced his candidacy for the 2007 French presidential race, and he secured the UMP nomination for the post in Jan., 2007. Leading after the first round, he defeated Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate, in the May runoff to win the presidency. Following the Aug., 2008, Russo-Georgian conflict over South Ossetia, he actively negotiated a cease-fire and Russian withdrawal from Georgia proper. Domestically, he has secured passage of constitutional and social welfare changes, including presidential term limits and a restructuring of the national pension system. An advocate, with Germany's Chancellor Merkel, of a generally conservative response to the eurozone crisis of the early 2010s, emphasizing government austerities to restore fiscal health, he failed to win reelection (2012), losing to Socialist François Hollande.

See his autobiographical political manifesto, Testimony (2006, tr. 2007).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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