Sarkozy's Turncoat Strategy

Paging all turncoats: Nicolas Sarkozy is reshuffling his cabinet again. Over the past two years, the conservative French president has offered high-profile jobs to leading Socialists and other prominent lefties, and five of them now hold seats in his cabinet, including Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Minister of Immigration Eric Besson. While Sarko's base resents the lost patronage opportunities for fellow conservatives, he seems focused on the upside of what he calls his "ouverture" ("opening") strategy: to discredit and divide the opposition. Rumors are flying about who will defect next. Leading picks include a former Socialist education minister, the lefty head of Paris's Institute of Political Studies and a senator close to centrist leader François Bayrou—a sign that Sarkozy is expanding beyond the left to target other rivals for his 2012 reelection bid. Losing any of them would compromise their respective parties, which raises an interesting irony. Barack Obama has successfully sold the same strategy—giving top Republicans positions of real power—as a way to heal partisan rifts. But it has the same result: promoting disunity in a fractured opposition, and stifling their chances of a comeback.

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