French rock-star Johnny Hallyday caused a huge stir last week when he announced that he would be moving to Gstaad, Switzerland to avoid paying high French taxes. In order to do so, he will have to live in Switzerland for at least six months and a day per year.
But in addition to entertainment value, this spectacle has had significant political effects as well. Hallyday befriended Jacques Chirac in 1988 during a failed election run, and was awarded the French Legion of Honor once Chirac won the presidency. This also led to the creation of a bond between Hallyday and the up and coming Nicolas Sarkozy, who has counted on Hallyday as a political supporter in the current presidential campaign. The news of this self-imposed exile initially embarrassed the Sarkozy camp, even prompting Socialist leader Francois Hollande to sarcastically describe it as "a really nice way to support his chosen candidate." However, Hallyday did impose an ultimatum. He said that if Sarkozy were elected, capped the income tax, and created exemptions on the inheritance tax, he would consider returning. Sarkozy seemed to defend Hallyday's action, saying later that
"so many of our artists, our creators, our researchers ... tell themselves that they have to leave (...) I would like people to think that they can live in France even when they succeed."
Today Hallyday announced in an interview with a weekly magazine that Nicolas Sarkozy directly approved of his exile, and that it has caused no friction between them. I imagine that if Sarkozy has a truly Machiavellian mind, he could add a whole new dimension of black mail to his candidacy. "A Vote for Royal is a Vote Against Hallyday."
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