Welcome to Sarkoland
Following his convincing win in last weekend's presidential elections, what might Sarkozy's leadership now mean for France, asks David Tresilian in Paris
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Clockwise from top left: a triumphant Sarkozy; riots in Paris; Royal admits defeat with much grace
Following months of campaigning during which he has been consistently ahead in the opinion polls, the centre-right UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy last weekend emerged the victor in France's presidential elections, scoring 53 per cent of the vote compared to the 47 per cent received by Socialist Party rival Ségolène Royal.
Turn out was an estimated 85.5 per cent, the highest since the 1960s, with Sarkozy's vote in last weekend's second round of voting echoing what he had enjoyed on the first round on 22 April, when he scored 31 per cent of the vote, as against 26 per cent for Royal. Turn out on this occasion was also high at 85 per cent of the French electorate.
The outgoing president, Jacques Chirac, himself from the centre-right UMP, now has until 16 May to make the handover to Sarkozy, who is then expected to announce the formation of a new government. Sarkozy will probably replace most of Chirac's appointees, including the present French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.
While Sarkozy's victory at the polls was greeted with consternation by his opponents on the left, who have represented him as a "danger for France", as Royal put it in the run up to last weekend's elections, Sarkozy himself behaved magnanimously in victory.
At a grand celebration held in the Place de la Concorde in Paris as the final results came in, Sarkozy presented himself as the "president of every French person" and not just of those who had voted for him.
"My thoughts go to all those who did not vote for me," he said. "I want to tell them that for me there is only one France. I want to tell them that I will be the president of every French person, and that I will speak for every one. I want to tell them that this evening's result does not represent the victory of one France over another. For me, there is only one victory: that of democracy."
However, as Sarkozy was speaking, protests against his election broke out across the French capital in the Place de la Bastille, with riot police battling hundreds of youths and using tear gas to disperse the crowds.
According to flyers distributed at the protests, "we already know the result: more racial discrimination, more contempt, more poverty and more repression."
There were also sporadic incidents in major cities across France, with protests and occasional violence in Toulouse, Clermont-Ferrand, Lyon and Lille, as well as cars set alight in Paris's eastern districts and in working-class suburbs.
For her part, the defeated Socialist Party candidate Royal, said that while she recognised the "disappointment and pain" of the 47 per cent of the French electorate that had voted for her and against Sarkozy, "what we have begun together we must continue together."
"I have engaged myself in a root-and-branch renewal of political life and of the left's way of doing politics," she said. The challenge now was "to deepen the renovation of the left and to look for new convergences beyond present boundaries."
While the next few months are likely to see some bitter in- fighting within the ranks of France's socialist and other left- wing parties over the reasons behind another electoral defeat, the centre-right president elect has already indicated legislation that he hopes to introduce as part of a programme to rehabilitate what was described as "the values of work, authority, morale, respect and merit" and the "honour of the nation and of national identity."
What this will mean in legislative terms is a reduction in social security and tax paid on overtime, as part of an attack on the 35-hour week introduced by the socialist government before 2002, a reduction in the power of France's unions, notably by obliging them to maintain a "minimum service" during strikes, and a reduction in the highest tax bands and in inheritance tax.
All of this is likely to benefit either those already in work, France's large numbers of unemployed being unlikely to benefit from more flexible overtime arrangements, or those on high incomes, who can now look forward to paying less tax.
However, the most controversial aspects of Sarkozy's programme are those parts dealing with other traditional right- wing themes, such as law and order and immigration.
On the former, Sarkozy has said that he wants to introduce "automatic sentencing" on the model of the "three strikes and you're out" system in force in parts of the United States. This would remove the right of judges to decide appropriate sentences for those found guilty of a third offence, instead obliging them automatically to give the maximum penalty allowed for by law.
On the latter, Sarkozy has said that he wants to reduce the right of family members to join immigrants legally in France, and to exercise greater "selection" over immigrants allowed to come to France in the first place. A new "ministry of immigration and national identity" will be set up, which will take charge of all matters relating to immigration.
In foreign policy, almost ignored during the election campaign, Sarkozy has said that he wants France to improve its relations with the United States, damaged during Chirac's presidency by the country's refusal to support the 2003 US- led invasion of Iraq and its reluctance to support Israel during last year's Israeli attacks on Lebanon.
Sarkozy is widely believed to have privately supported the 2003 US-led invasion, Royal claiming before last weekend's election that he had even gone to Washington to "apologise" to President Bush for the French stand against it.
Sarkozy has also made forceful comments regarding Turkish accession to the European Union, repeated during a pre- election television debate with Royal last week.
On this occasion he said that he would "tell the Turks that you can be associated with Europe, and we can have a common market with you, but you will not be a member of the European Union for the simple reason that you are in Asia Minor" and not in Europe.
As the dust settled last weekend after one of the most hotly contested French election campaigns in decades, there were anxious voices in the French media regarding Sarkozy's future presidency.
According to Jean-Marie Colombani, editor of the French newspaper Le Monde, which had supported Royal's candidacy, it was now up to Sarkozy to show that he was president of the whole of France.
The campaign, Colombani wrote, had been marked by division and denunciation, and Sarkozy had been swept to power on the back of a coalition of "the France that is well-off... the France that is old... and the France that has salaried jobs", at the expense of many young people and those excluded from the system, who had voted for Royal.
The true extent of the renovation that Sarkozy had promised France, Colombani said, should be measured by "the reality of the 'respect' promised to the other half of France" that had not voted for him.