If Villepin's presidential ambitions are irretrievable, it leaves Sarkozy as front-runner for the right. He has been prudently silent during the CPE controversy. It is still too soon to say whether his prospects have been damaged by the crisis or whether the French electorate considers him so distant from Chirac and Villepin that he will emerge unscathed. More...
As much as Dominique may be bearing the brunt of the anti-CPE demos, Nicolas Sarkozy, or Sarko, as he is more generally known, is the minister who gets to send in the Riot Police and one imagines that he enjoys his role. He is all about "Law & Order" and his ideas about job creation go as far as hiring more cops. In fact the police services, of which there are numerous, have increased their personnel considerably since 2002 when Chirac came to power as Prez.
Sarko is currently doing his second stint as Minister of the Interior and is basically in charge of those burly riots cops, the CRS, who have been putting the boot in the anti-CPE protestors. The CRS are obviously chosen for their size (large) and their disposition (non-intellectual). They must be some of the ugliest cops I've ever across - although they look kind of silly when they are in their RoboCop gear.
The 2002 election was really a balls-up - Jacques didn't get into office on any strengths, but rather the fact the electorate voted against Le Pen. Now Dominique and Sarko are both competitors to take over from Jacques when he starts packing his bags and gets ready to face those criminal corruption charges when leaves the Palais de l'Elysée. Dominique is your Class A old school career politician. Sarko is more of a right-wing populist nouveau riche kinda guy, although I suspect that his right of center right political postion is not just about garnering right wing votes, but informs his ideological stance too.
The race is already on for the 2007 Presidential election, but the fissures in French politics have been apparent since May 2005 and the No vote for the EU constitution. If Dominique is eliminated from the race this early on and Sarko comes out as the number one contender with over a year to go it will polarize French society because Sarko is either liked or detested and when people realise that he is in direct ascdency to the presidency, well the riots of November and March will look like a tea-party.