For a former French president to be sentenced to jail may be regarded as a misfortune. For the same ex-president to go on trial on different corruption charges 11 weeks later looks like a brutal commentary on the state of French politics.
Nicolas Sarkozy will appear in court in Paris Thursday to face accusations that he and his party created a complex system of fake bills to hide epic overspending on his failed re-election campaign in 2012.
Several other allegations of wrongdoing against Sarkozy remain under investigation. He contests all the accusations and has appealed against the 12-month prison sentence that he received on March 1 for, in effect, trying to bribe a judge for inside information on another case against him.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Sarkozy prosecutions, Thursday’s trial fits a miserable French pattern of law-breaking to achieve, or retain, high office which goes back for four decades or more.
The last two presidents from the center right, Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, were both convicted of corruption after they left the Elysée. Five of the last six French center-right prime ministers have faced criminal charges of various kinds. Two, Edouard Balladur and Dominique de Villepin, were acquitted. Three, including Chirac, were found guilty.