NICOLAS Sarkozy has just completed the first 100 days in office by which political commentators like to judge new presidents and prime ministers. It's an artifical construct especially when it includes a holiday period but in M. Sarkozy's case it does serve to show how quickly he got on with the job after his election and before the August doldrums settled on France. In short order he consolidated his presidential victory with a parliament likely to process most of his reforms, formed a cabinet of all the talents (or at least from all the parties), abolished income tax on overtime and somehow, at the last moment, muscled into the release of Bulgarian nurses from Libyan jails.

It has been an impressive performance even if some other promised reforms have been temporarily blocked or watered down and it has shown that the French bureaucracy is not as sclerotic as it is often assumed to be.

Nonetheless, two episodes have left others wondering how far they can trust M. Sarkozy. One was his fast footwork at the EU Council in June when he inserted a qualifying phrase about protection from international competition into the reform treaty text without consulting other member states.

A second was the involvement of his wife Cecilia in the Libyan affair on the grounds that it was an humanitarian matter, only for it top emerge later that along the way France had sold anti-tank missiles to Muammar Gadafy.

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