Analysis: Sarkozy victory, a turning-point for France

7th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 7, 2007 (AFP) - Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential victory marks a turning point for France, with the electorate making a shift to the right to choose economic reforms that are the norm in most other developed nations, analysts said.

PARIS, May 7, 2007 (AFP) - Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential victory marks a turning point for France, with the electorate making a shift to the right to choose economic reforms that are the norm in most other developed nations, analysts said.

Photo by Hughes Leglise-Bataille

The right-wing ruling party chief scored a decisive 53 percent to 47 percent victory over Socialist Segolene Royal on Sunday after promising a "clean break" from the policies of the past, and a radical new agenda of tax cuts and work incentives.

Even the communist daily l'Humanite said Monday that "the victory of the right cannot be disputed."

"This is a very important moment. It's not just a change of generation at the top but also a change of politics," said Dominique Moisi of the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).

"It is a turning-point for France: Nicolas Sarkozy now has a clear mandate for change. What the election has proved is that the French were not in the mood for love -- but in the mood for work," he said.

For Hall Gardner, professor of international relations at the American University in Paris, the election marks France's coming to terms with economic reality.

"People could see the economy was not working. Taxes are so high it is getting absurd, and Sarkozy made it quite clear his priority is to ease the burden.

"His emphasis on the work ethic was crucial. Working people say they are tired of seeing others take advantage of the social welfare system. It's an electoral mood that long since took hold in the US and elsewhere and now has arrived in France," he said.

The clear size of Sarkozy's victory over Royal is an important factor, according to Jean-Philippe Roy, political professor at the university of Tours, because it means there can be no serious objection when he undertakes his reforms.

In June's legislative elections, he can expect to win a majority in the National Assembly, because the political wind is behind him, Roy said.

But of equal significance is the way the whole French political landscape is set to be redrawn -- with the decline of the far-right National Front creating a huge opportunity for Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

*sidebar1*"This is a turning-point because the whole left-right balance has been profoundly shaken. The FN is going to diminish as a force as Jean-Marie Le Pen leaves the stage -- and that will automatically bring large numbers of voters into Sarkozy's fold," Roy said.

For Royal's Socialist Party, which has now lost three presidential elections in a row, the outlook is grim. A bitter bout of score-settling can be expected, before the party faces up to the enormous task of deciding its future.

"It is going to be pretty nasty. The recriminations will be violent, and then they are going to have to completely re-found the party," said Roy.

Analysts said the Socialist Party may well split into two entities -- one staying on the ideological left and the other forming a new coalition party with the centre.

"The dinosaurs will just disappear, like they have everywhere else," said Gardner.

Many other French leaders have promised reform, but then failed because of lack of will and protest movements on the street. However the analysts said that this time there is a strong chance things will be different.

"I don't really believe there will be significant opposition on the street. With this very clear mandate, he'll have his elbows free. He'll have plenty of room for manoeuvre," said Roy.

"What has happened is that France is adjusting to modernity. A lot of what Nicolas Sarkozy has promised is borrowed from other countries. In France it is radical, but not anywhere else," said Moisi.

"He has a clear mandate for change which he has to put into effect in the next six months. He has to act fast. And I think he will," he said.


Copyright AFP

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