Who’d be Nicolas Sarkozy? Languishing in the polls, lambasted at home and increasingly mistrusted abroad by his one-time ally Angela Merkel, you’d think things could scarcely get worse. Step forward Dominique de Villepin, who has formed a new party to take on Sarko for the presidency. The silver-maned former foreign minister made his name in 2003 with an impassioned anti-Iraq war UN speech and, with several books of poetry and a multi-volume biography of Napoleon to his name, he is every inch the European intellectual. When Sarko leapfrogged De Villepin to become president in 2007 it looked like the end of the road. Now, Dominique is back. Few rate his chances of victory in 2012, but he could siphon off enough votes from his rival (a man he likens variously to a dwarf, a piglet or a midget) to let the likely Socialist candidate, IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, sneak through. Revenge, they say, is a dish best served froid.
This article originally appeared in the July 2010 edition of Prospect.