Off track:

Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right party got a sharp rebuke from French voters in the recent local elections, with leftist parties taking 49.5% of the vote to 47.5% for the president’s UMP and its allies. The opposition Socialists tried to spin this as a rejection of his economic reforms, the platform on which Sarkozy was elected 10 months ago, but they know as well as everyone else in France that this is not the issue.

For one thing, there haven’t been that many reforms that anybody’s noticed. For another, every poll made clear that Sarkozy was being punished for all the high-profile and decidedly unpresidential antics that have earned him the sobriquet “President Bling-Bling.” In France, that is not flattering.

Hopefully, the election rebuff will be just what Sarkozy needs to refocus his energy on what he promised — serious economic reforms. Already last week he said he would “draw conclusions” from the result, and Elysée officials are taking steps to “re-presidentialise” the president. Sarkozy is far too ebullient to be turned into a clone of his staid predecessors, but when a politician’s behaviour gets in the way of his mission, it’s time for a dose of discipline — especially when the mission is as important as the one for which voters chose Sarkozy to begin with. —International Herald Tribune