Sarkozy sweeps to French presidential victory

6th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 6, 2007 (AFP) - Right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy scored an emphatic victory in the French presidential election Sunday, trouncing Socialist rival Segolene Royal to win a clear mandate for his tough economic and social reforms.

PARIS, May 6, 2007 (AFP) - Right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy scored an emphatic victory in the French presidential election Sunday, trouncing Socialist rival Segolene Royal to win a clear mandate for his tough economic and social reforms.

Wild celebrations erupted among Sarkozy supporters in Paris as soon as polls closed and projections said the 52-year-old former interior minister had around 53 percent of the vote against Royal's 47 percent.

There was a high turnout estimated at about 85 percent by polling institutes which highlighted the widespread interest in the election of a new generation of French leaders after President Jacques Chirac's 12 year rule.

Delirious members of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) burst into chants of "Nicolas - President!" and hugged each other in joy at the party's campaign headquarters.

Thousands also gathered on the historic Place de la Concorde in central Paris where Sarkozy was to give a victory speech and veteran French rocker Johnny Hallyday was to headline a special concert.

At the Socialist Party headquarters in Paris, supporters gloomily digested a third consecutive presidential defeat after 1995 and 2002.

Royal, who had hoped to become France's first woman president, told disconsolate supporters she hoped "the next president of the republic will accomplish his mandate for the service of all French people."

Thousands of police renforcements were deployed in and around the capital to head off the risk of unrest by youths from high immigrants areas, many of whom regard Sarkozy as a hate-figure since riots of 2005.

On the last day of the campaign Royal -- slipping badly in opinion polls -- had issued a stark warning that a Sarkozy victory would trigger "violence and brutality" across the country.

Sarkozy will take over from Chirac on May 16, and has promised to act quickly to enact key items of his manifesto.

After legislative elections in June -- in which he is banking on a clear majority for the UMP and its allies -- he plans a special session of the National Assembly to push through the first stage of his reforms.

These include the abolition of tax on overtime, swingeing 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 minumum jail terms for serial offenders and tougher rules to make it harder for immigrants to bring extended families to France.

The son of a Hungarian aristocrat and the grandson of a Greek Jew, Sarkozy will be the first French president of immigrant stock. He entered politics in the 1970s as a follower of Chirac, and in the last five years has been interior and finance minister in the centre-right government.

Sarkozy's campaign was based on the theme of "la rupture" -- a clean break from policies of past governments, which he blamed for creating France's runaway debt, high unemployment and festering discontent in the high-immigration suburbs.

His avowedly right-wing programme was in sharp contrast to Royal's promise to extend state protection via the creation of 500,000 public sector jobs and an increased minimum wage.

Socialist European deputy Pierre Moscovici said Royal's defeat was a "a defeat for all socialists."

The humiliation was expected to trigger bitter recrimination in the party -- where many senior figure initially opposed Royal's candidacy -- as well as speculation about a possible realignment of the French left.

The pair qualified from the first multi-candidate round of the election on April 22, beating the centrist Francois Bayrou and far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The crux of the second round campaign was Wednesday's televised debate, in which Royal was unexpectedly aggressive towards Sarkozy, at one point accusing him of "political immorality".

Commentators said that despite a close rapport with much of the public, Royal never established herself as a credible president. Her programme was widely perceived as unrealistic, and many reacted badly to her last-minute warnings of violence if Sarkozy won.

"This is a turning-point for France. A lot of people may not like Nicolas Sarkozy personally, but they thought first that he was much better than his opponent and second that his strategy is the right one for the country," said Dominique Moisi of the French Institute for International Relations.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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