Huffpost WorldPost
Elena Ulansky Headshot

Could Gaddafi Scandal Bring Down Sarkozy?

Posted: Updated:

The second round of the French campaign, a.k.a. "le second tour," fought between now and the runoff May 6 is indeed a compelling race.

The main question to be answered: can Sarkozy possibly save his reputation after this?

The prosecutor's office in Paris is currently investigating the documents that French website Mediapart claims to have stating that President Nicolas Sarkozy's successful 2007 election campaign was partly funded by former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Medipart claims to have a document signed by a senior figure in Libya in 2006 and states that the regime approved a payment of 50 million euro to back Sarkozy's campaign, following a meeting with one of his most trusted political allies. The explosive revelation is certain to fuel calls for a full-scale enquiry into the funding of the president's last election campaign.

The document supposedly is addressed to Gaddafi's chief of staff Bashir Saleh. Certainly this paper doesn't prove the actual fact of monetary transaction. On the other hand, when in early March the French press started actively pursuing the topic of Sarkozy's campaign being sponsored by Libyan dictator because such information leaked from a source close to Gaddafi. The French president only laughed at those messages and sarcastically answered, "It turns out I didn't pay with appreciation." However, the memo's validity is in doubt -- Bashir Saleh denied such a document existed. In addition the head of Libya's National Transitional Council said that the document was a fake.

However, to complicate the matter, Saleh is in exile in France and the new government of Libya is trying to extradite him. So perhaps he is only protecting Sarkozy to avoid extradition, in the meanwhile Sarkozy is suing Mediapart.

Does Sarkozy have any chance of winning the presidential seat after the unprecedented scandal of this alleged link with the Gaddafi family? It burst like an atomic bomb right before the second round of French elections. The French right holds the key to the election. The National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, won almost 18 percent of the popular vote. While Le Pen has advised her followers not to vote for either man, this scandal could cause some Le Pen supporters to vote in anger against Sarkozy and hence tip the balance in the socialist Francois Hollande's favor. The first round ended with the selection of the Socialist Party leader François Hollande who got the most votes (28.63 percent) and Nicolas Sarkozy who came in second (27.18 percent) as second round participants, as neither of them had acquired a majority in the first round. Since his nomination in October 2011, François Hollande consistently led in the opinion polls, though after official campaigning began he began to see his lead narrow. But now in the light of this toxic news for Sarkozy's reputation, Hollande has a very real chance to beat Sarkozy by a margin between 6% and 10% conservatively speaking.

It would be ironic if part of Sarkozy's defeat was due to Gaddafi's role in the last election after Sarkozy was the champion of the war against Gaddafi. Gaddafi retaliating from the grave and striking back with this scandal to ruin the reelection of the man who led his defeat would add a bizarre twist in what could be the beginning of the rise of socialism in Europe.