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Viewing cable 06PARIS4411, FORMER PRIME MINISTER RAFFARIN: CHIRAC SHOULD REIN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06PARIS4411 2006-06-26 16:04 2011-02-10 08:08 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
Appears in these articles:
http://abonnes.lemonde.fr/documents-wikileaks/article/2011/02/09/wikileaks-les-visiteurs-de-l-ambassade_1477418_1446239.htm
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

261640Z Jun 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 004411 

SIPDIS 

DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/WE, DRL/IL, INR/EUC, EUR/ERA, EUR/PPD, 
AND EB 
DEPT OF COMMERCE FOR ITA 
DEPT OF LABOR FOR ILAB 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2015 
TAGS: PGOV ELAB EU FR PINR SOCI ECON
SUBJECT: FORMER PRIME MINISTER RAFFARIN: CHIRAC SHOULD REIN 
IN VILLEPIN AND SARKOZY SHOULD QUIT THE GOVERNMENT 


Classified By: Ambassador Craig Stapleton for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 

SUMMARY 
-------- 
1. (C) Former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin confided 
to Ambassador Stapleton during a June 15 lunch that he was 
worried by President Chirac's waning authority. Raffarin 
said he had advised the president on the importance of 
restoring the respective roles of the presidency, prime 
minister and government, and parliament. Raffarin said that 
Prime Minister de Villepin was overstepping the prerogatives 
of his office and needed to be reminded of President 
Chirac,s ultimate authority. Raffarin also said he was 
advising Nicolas Sarkozy to withdraw from the government to 
focus on his presidential campaign. Noting that he would be 
actively supporting Sarkozy in 2007, Raffarin said Sarkozy 
had both the "image and mettle" to needed to succeed -- 
campaign to victory and thereafter successfully wield power. 
He doubted this was the case for Socialist Party (PS) 
front-runner Segolene Royal. Raffarin envisioned U.S.-Europe 
relations as an equal partnership, working in parallel 
towards common goals. Raffarin worried that, although the 
U.S. and French governments may understand each other well, 
American and French society are growing farther apart, and 
that there were no government figures or public intellectuals 
able to explain America to France with media presence to make 
a difference. END SUMMARY. 

CHIRAC'S WANING AUTHORITY 
------------------------- 
2. (C) Over lunch with Ambassador Stapleton on June 15, 
former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin confided that 
President's Chirac's continuing "absence" from the political 
scene was worrisome. Raffarin lamented Chirac's waning 
authority during the president's last full year in office. 
He said Chirac's diminished stature, along with Villepin's 
excesses, had upset the balanced functioning of the 
institutions of the Fifth Republic. 

REPAIRING "INSTITUTIONAL DYSFUNCTIONALISM" 
---------------------------------------- 
3. (C) Repairing what Raffarin termed "institutional 
dysfunctionalism" would require making sure the prime 
minister respects the authority of the president. He said 
the role of the prime minister was to protect the president 
during political crises. Raffarin compared this function to 
that of an air bag in a car accident -- and "not vice versa." 
In Raffarin,s view, Villepin has managed to use the 
Presidency to protect himself from the consequences of his 
own failure in managing the First Employment Contract (CPE) 
last Spring. 

CHIRAC AND VILLEPIN -- "A PAINFUL RELATIONSHIP" 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
4. (C) Raffarin mused that making it clear to Villepin that 
&the prime minister works for the president8 would 
nonetheless be difficult, because &Chirac and Villepin know 
each other so well." (Note: Villepin was Chirac's Chief of 
Staff from 1995 - 2002. End note.) Raffarin underlined 
Villepin's attractive qualities, his intelligence and 
preference for action, while also noting that Chirac 
mistrusted Villepin's ambition, impetuousness and 
histrionics. "It must be a painful relationship," summarized 
Raffarin. 

CHIRAC SHOULD CHANGE PRIME MINISTER 
----------------------------------- 
5. (C) Raffarin said that "the prime minister should change 
or Chirac should change prime ministers." Elaborating on his 
vision of the proper functioning of the institutions of the 
Fifth Republic, Raffarin described the prime minister as the 
implementer of policy and manager of relations with the 
parliamentary majority, while the president occupies the 
heights of power "alone." Raffarin said that the prime 
minister "needs to be a team player," and that Villepin's 
unsuitableness for the job stems from "the professional 
deformation" of having worked too long at the Elysee. 
Raffarin suggested Jacques Barrot, EU Commissioner for 
Transport or, alternatively, Jean-Louis Borloo, Minister for 
Social Cohesion, as currently suitable replacements, were 
Villepin to go. 

THE PROBLEM IS VILLEPIN, NOT THE INSTITUTIONS 
--------------------------------------------- 
6. (C) Raffarin was adamant that the institutions of the 
Fifth Republic were not the problem, describing at some 
length how those institutions had shown themselves to be 
flexible and effective. The problem, he said, was Villepin's 
character, "which doesn't change." Raffarin opined that 
Villepin's blind spot stems from his not being a politician 
-- he has no experience with the constant constraint of an 
electorate looking over his shoulder. That said, Raffarin 
noted that he did favor certain limited institutional reforms. 

FAVORS A MORE REPRESENTATIVE PARLIAMENT 
--------------------------------------- 
7. (C) Raffarin remarked that the majority Union for a 
Popular Movement (UMP) party and the minority Socialist Party 
(PS), in aggregate, represent less than half the electorate 
(yet dominate the National Assembly (about 500 of 577 
members)). Raffarin said he therefore favored some element 
of proportionality in the apportionment of National Assembly 
seats. He said it would be better to have people "like Le 
Pen and Bove" represented in parliament than to allow them to 
posture from the sidelines. (Note: Jean-Marie Le Pen is the 
leader of the extreme right National Front (FN) party; Jose 
Bove, famous for bombing a McDonald's in 1999, is a leading 
anti-globalization radical. End Note.) 

SARKOZY SHOULD QUIT THE GOVERNMENT 
---------------------------------- 
8. (C) Raffarin, who stressed that he would actively support 
Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential race, said that he believed 
that Sarkozy would be well advised to quit the Villepin 
government soon. Raffarin gave three reasons. First, since 
Chirac could not keep Sarkozy and fire Villepin because that 
would imply that Villepin was the one most at fault in the 
Clearstream Affair, Sarkozy would do well to make the move to 
leave himself. Second, Sarkozy needs a respite from the 
rigors of being in power in order to get ready for his 
campaign for the presidency. As Raffarin put it, "being in 
power uses people up," and was not conducive to the calm 
reflection required for preparing oneself to lead the nation 
into the future. Third, Sarkozy needed to break out of the 
world of motorcades, photo ops and tightly scripted events to 
meet with people on a more relaxed and equal basis. Pressed 
on when Sarkozy would have the best opportunity to leave the 
government, Raffarin insisted that it should be as soon as 
possible, that is, before the summer break rather than in the 
Fall -- in any event, well before the January date that 
Sarkozy has cited publicly. 

CLEARSTREAM 
----------- 
9. (C) Raffarin summed up the Clearstream Affair as a 
complex matter of "he said, she said." Raffarin didn't 
believe there would ever be "a smoking gun" since the 
perpetration stemmed from "orders that were orally conveyed, 
if at all." He said that the judges had been mistreated in 
the affair by the politicians, and would take their revenge 
eventually -- but that this would take time. Raffarin 
admitted that voters appeared not to care about the affair 
itself, while averring that they were sensitive to the enmity 
between Villepin and Sarkozy, which could lessen their 
support for the UMP. Public opinion would inevitably fault 
both for not finding a way to work together in the interest 
of the greater good. 

SARKOZY IS UP TO THE JOB 
------------------------ 
10. (C) Raffarin believes Sarkozy has the right mix of 
talent and strengths to be a successful President. Raffarin 
stressed that Sarkozy "has the political experience to know 
what is possible." Citing the importance of both "message" 
and "mettle," Raffarin said Sarkozy's strong suit was the 
latter, and so would have to take care that his message/image 
is in sync with the French electorate's expectations at 
election time. Raffarin said he had no doubt that Sarkozy 
would be the UMP's presidential candidate, and added that he 
did not believe there would be any other candidate from the 
majority in the first round of the presidential election. 
Raffarin said he hoped to help Sarkozy "re-center" his 
message in advance of the elections, and commented that what 
was "American" about Sarkozy was his pragmatism and 
results-oriented outlook. Asked if Sarkozy knows how to 
listen, Raffarin said that Sarkozy listened as a professional 
politician, "sensitive to power relations and with an eye on 
results." Raffarin added that Sarkozy knew the political 
system inside and out and was very responsible. Raffarin 
summed up by describing Sarkozy as "what the French would 
like to be, rather than what they are." 

ROYAL 
----- 
11. (C) Raffarin's portrait of Royal was less flattering. 
He said that her message/image seems to be in sync with 
public expectations, but that she lacked the "force of 
character" to bear the responsibilities of power at the top. 
He said that as the electoral campaign gets underway in 
earnest, the focus will move from "message" to "character," 
the area where Sarkozy was much more tested. Raffarin said 
that the intense scrutiny generated by a presidential 
campaign would bring to light Royal's character flaws. 
Raffarin opined that Royal would fall out of the race before 
the PS nomination primary in November, and the party would 
turn to former prime minister Lionel Jospin as the only 
candidate capable of uniting the left. Raffarin said Jospin 
was the only PS figure whose nomination would not be 
perceived as "humiliating" by all the other PS aspirants. 
Raffarin judged that Jospin would also prove a more daunting 
challenger for the center-right than Royal. 

12. (C) Raffarin recounted that, although Royal beat his 
designated successor in the race for president of the 
Poitou-Charentes Regional Council (in 2004), she had earlier 
been defeated in a re-election bid as mayor of a small town 
in the region. Raffarin pointed out that incumbent mayors in 
small towns in rural France are rarely run out of office, 
unless they have a talent for rubbing people the wrong way. 
Raffarin characterized Royal as someone who generated 
tensions, and described her as "seductive from afar, but 
irritating up close." He added that her focus on image 
tended to make her think only about the short term. In all, 
Raffarin judged that Royal was too divisive a figure to play 
the role of "unifier" that the PS needs to make it into the 
second round. Raffarin said he feared "a repeat of 2002," in 
which Le Pen received around 15 percent of the vote to get to 
the second round. According to Raffarin, even many who vote 
for him don't want Le Pen as president, but Le Pen continues 
to profit from the protest vote. 

CHIRAC'S LEGACY 
-------------- 
13. (C) Raffarin expressed the hope that President Chirac 
would find some high notes on which to end his presidency. 
Raffarin defined finishing well as wrapping up ongoing reform 
efforts and calming some of the current social turmoil and 
mistrust of the political class. He also projected that 
Chirac might manage two or three foreign policy achievements 
as capstones to his dozen years as president. Specifically, 
Raffarin mentioned contributing to progress reining in Iran's 
nuclear weapons ambitions, bringing further improvement to 
France's relations with Israel and "getting Europe back on 
track." Raffarin suggested Chirac might also do something to 
decrease France's worrisome isolation both on the European 
scene and on the larger world scene beyond Europe. 

EUROPE 
------ 
14. (C) Raffarin said that, to get the European project back 
on track, the focus should be on "defining Europe as a 
political project for its citizens," and on providing for a 
"peace and security" role for Europe commensurate with its 
wealth and historical weight. Raffarin suggested that France 
had gone about promoting the EU constitutional treaty in the 
wrong way, trumpeting the constitution as a work of 
legislative compromise -- something "mechanical" to make the 
EU work better. Raffarin saw a need to define Europe for its 
citizens, focusing on the way European social solidarity and 
social protections makes being a citizen of Europe different. 

15. (C) Raffarin stressed that in a multipolar world it was 
important that Europe have &a role of consequence in the 
concert of powers." He said Europe should not be a 
counterweight to the U.S., but should be seen as another 
voice, alongside the U.S., for the West. On a foundation of 
"firm friendship" between the U.S. and Europe, Raffarin 
suggested that Europe could work separately but in parallel 
with the U.S., supporting progress towards peace in the 
Middle East and attenuating tensions with the Islamic world 
by presenting a secular, Western alternative. Raffarin also 
said Europe could also contribute to ensuring that China 
emerges as a force for balance and peace. 

U.S - FRANCE 
------------ 
16. (C) Raffarin said he worried most about the potential 
for a drifting apart of the American and French peoples, and 
not the periodic disputes between the governments. He joked 
that France always knew when to call on the U.S. when in 
need, and understood that the U.S. would never be a danger 
for France. That said, citing France's penchant for seeing 
relationships through a "Marxist" lens, it was important that 
the U.S. never be seen as the "boss" in the relationship, as 
this provoked French resistance to U.S. leadership. In the 
end, the French people felt close to their American 
counterparts -- closer than to their UK and German 
counterparts in particular. The Franco-German friendship was 
unshakable "because we have decided it should be thus," but 
the French preferred to travel or study in the U.S., rather 
than Germany. Raffarin stressed the need for more exchange 
and dialogue, so that the French could get beyond the 
stereotypes of American religiosity and violence disseminated 
by the media. Raffarin said that there was a lack of public 
figures "able to explain the societies to each other." He 
focused on the dearth of public intellectuals able to provide 
the French public with an informed interpretation of American 
society and U.S. policies, as did -- Raffarin's example -- 
Pierre Salinger, President Kennedy's press secretary and U.S. 
network newsman who went on become a fixture of French public 
affairs talk shows. Raffarin lamented this absence of 
American officials and public intellectuals with enough media 
presence to make a difference in guiding public perceptions 
in France away from simplistic preconceptions about the U.S. 
Raffarin said the U.S.-France economic relationship was good, 
although he believed France could do much more to improve his 
attractiveness as a destination for investment. 

COMMENT 
------- 
17. (C) Raffarin took full advantage of the opportunity to 
share some thoughtful, and surprisingly detached commentary 
on the current French political scene. He hardly mentioned 
himself, his record in office or his own political ambitions. 
He made clear he thought Villepin was the wrong man, with 
the wrong experience, doing the wrong job at the wrong time. 
Raffarin's evident enthusiasm for Sarkozy and his 
presidential ambitions appeared genuine and was not expected. 
Raffarin continues to be seen as the odds-on favorite to 
replace Christian Poncelet as president of the French Senate 
in 2008. End Comment. 
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm 

STAPLETON