Sarkozy to address nation in effort to revive his presidency

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will give a lengthy interview on national television late Thursday in an attempt to revive his faltering presidency, dpa reported.

His second such appearance on television, in which he will field questions from five journalists for at least 90 minutes, is widely viewed as a make-or-break event for Sarkozy's plans to carry out wide-ranging reforms of the French economy.

The appearance comes as more polls confirm that the 53-year-old Sarkozy currently ranks as one of the most unpopular presidents in modern French history.

In the latest poll, published Thursday in the daily Le Parisien, respondents ranked him last among all the post-war French presidents in terms of best representing the country. However, Sarkozy's numbers come after only one year in office, while the others were judged after completing their terms.

According to French media, Sarkozy is expected to lay out a clear description of his reform plans later Thursday and will try to convince the French people that he is able to return the country to prosperity.

According to the pro-Sarkozy daily Le Figaro, the president "must convince (his audience) that both time and will are necessary to transform the country. Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder had both, as well as, before them, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher."

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Wednesday of Sarkozy's presentation, "We expect a roadmap for the coming weeks, for the coming months."

The head of the opposition Socialist Party, Francois Hollande, said Wednesday that he wanted Sarkozy to "clarify his policies and to make them more equitable."

"If Nicolas Sarkozy wants to be heard, he must say where he wants to go," Hollande said. "In one year, he has said many things, announced many things, promised many things. But what should have been the president's top priority, purchasing power, ... has never before been so reduced by inflation and the stagnation of salaries."

Regardless of what Sarkozy says later Thursday and what reforms he carries out, the French president may be hampered by the effects of the current worldwide finance crisis and rising inflation.

The government's statistical office INSEE announced Wednesday that French consumer spending declined by 1.7 per cent in March compared to the previous month. Consumer spending has been the primary factor keeping the French economy growing at a modest pace.

Analysts suggest that rising inflation, which reached 3.2 per cent in March, is discouraging French consumers from opening their purses. This could lead to bad economic news in the near and medium term and complicate Sarkozy's plans to carry out his reforms.

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