Sarkozy holidays as fresh violence hits cities

8th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 8, 2007 (AFP) - France's next president Nicolas Sarkozy holidayed Tuesday in Malta ahead of launching a radical reform programme, while back home cities across the country were hit by more violent "anti-Sarko" protests.

PARIS, May 8, 2007 (AFP) - France's next president Nicolas Sarkozy holidayed Tuesday in Malta ahead of launching a radical reform programme, while back home cities across the country were hit by more violent "anti-Sarko" protests.

Sarkozy boarded a yacht in the Mediterranean island with his wife Cecilia and their 10-year-old son Louis on Monday at the start of a three-day break, far from the hectic post-election atmosphere in Paris.

The family arrived there on a private plane after the 52-year-old right-winger's election victory on Sunday. He won 53 percent of the votes to 47 percent for his Socialist rival Segolene Royal.

Sarkozy, who has relentlessly manoeuvred his way to power over the past five years, had pre-planned the break to recover from his gruelling campaigning and to mentally ready himself for France's highest office.

He takes over from President Jacques Chirac on May 16.

Chirac was on Tuesday, a public holiday in France, due to participate in his final public ceremony as head of state at a commemoration of the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

Sarkozy's election triumph has sparked protests across the country, many of them violent, which began late Sunday and continued Monday night.

The flare-ups echoed Royal's pre-poll warning that a Sarkozy victory could see the country slide into unrest.

Some 500 people went on a rampage in the Bastille area of Paris on Monday, toppling parked motorbikes and smashing the windows of shops and telephone cabins.

Riot police charges eventually forced the crowd to disperse after arresting more than 100.

The southeastern city of Lyon saw similar scenes, with police firing tear gas to clear a window-smashing mob of around 200. Police in the northern city of Lille also used tear gas to disperse more than 100 youths who torched several dozen cars and trash bins.

Disturbances also took place in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes, and the southern city of Toulouse.

The situation recalled the three weeks of rioting that flared in poor French suburbs in October and November 2005.

Sarkozy, who was then a hardline interior minister who described delinquent youths in such areas as "rabble," was the focus for much of the youths' anger during those riots.

The new president will have a busy schedule when he begins his ambitious bid to overhaul France's lacklustre economy. He has vowed to cut taxes for the wealthy, trim unemployment and curb the power of the country's powerful unions.

Before that he must name a prime minister. Former social affairs minister Francois Fillon and current Employment and Social Cohesion Minister Jean-Louis Borloo are seen as likely candidates.

Sarkozy is expected to move fast to enact his reforms. He is banking on a clear majority for his Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party in parliamentary elections in June, after which he is to call a special session of the National Assembly to vote through the first stage of his programme.

That programme includes the abolition of tax on overtime, deep cuts in inheritance tax, a law guaranteeing minimum service in transport strikes, and rules to oblige the unemployed to take up offered work.

On the social front he has pledged minimum jail terms for serial offenders and tougher rules to make it harder for immigrants to bring extended families to France.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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