LONDON: French President Nicolas Sarkozy faces a daunting battle following the announcement he will seek another term, but his removal would be a loss to world politics, Britain's press said Thursday.
Britain's newspapers tore into the French leader late last year over his handling of the eurozone crisis and his calls for a Europe-wide financial transactions tax, but on Thursday focused on his decisive actions on the world stage.
"Britain has had many disputes with President Sarkozy, not least his obsession with the introduction of a financial transactions tax that could do serious damage to the City of London," said The Times leading article.
"Yet in many ways he has been an impressive leader both for France and for the rest of the world."
The right-of-centre broadsheet praised Sarkozy's swift response to the Arab Spring uprisings and heralded his leading role in bringing about the downfall of veteran Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.
However, the paper also criticised Sarkozy's "disappointing" record on reforming France's "bloated" public sector, saying it highlighted that his achievements often fell short of his promises.
"For all his flaws, Mr Sarkozy would be a loss from the world stage," the article concluded.
Fellow broadsheet The Daily Telegraph (Conservative) warned that Sarkozy faced "a taller order than any of his predecessors" to secure a second five-year term.
The left-of-centre Independent agreed that despite being "a powerful campaigner", Sarkozy faced "the greatest uphill battle of any incumbent French leader of recent times".
"Sarkozy is seen as having behaved erratically and selfishly in office, governing for his family and friends," the paper added.
Sarkozy said Wednesday he was the man to defend a "strong France" as he announced his re-election bid with 10 weeks to the vote and his Socialist rival Francois Hollande leading in opinion polls.
Stephen Glover of the eurosceptic Daily Mail was less generous in his assessment of the French leader, accusing him of conveying the "detestable bounciness and self-confidence that one associates with Napoleon."
"It seems a good bet that Sarkozy's vision of a united Europe will unravel as almost 200 years ago Bonaparte's admittedly very different version did," he added before predicting a chastening defeat when voting begins on April 22.
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012