Sarkozy wins mandate for radical reform

7th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 7, 2007 (AFP) - Right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy emphatically won France's presidential election on Sunday, securing a clear mandate to carry out a programme of sweeping social and economic reforms.

PARIS, May 7, 2007 (AFP) - Right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy emphatically won France's presidential election on Sunday, securing a clear mandate to carry out a programme of sweeping social and economic reforms.

"I will not betray you, I will not lie to you, I will not disappoint you," Sarkozy told some 30,000 supporters packed into Paris' Place de la Concorde to celebrate his triumph over the Socialist Segolene Royal.

But riot police also fought hundreds of anti-Sarkozy protestors in Paris and others cities with tear gas and water cannon, while angry youths burned dozens of cars in the suburbs hit by riots two years ago.

Sarkozy won the battle to be France's new generation leader in place of President Jacques Chirac with 53 percent of the vote against 47 percent for Royal, according to official results. The estimated turnout of 85 percent was the highest in three decades.

Amid wild celebrations in the capital, Sarkozy, 52, who has fought to soften his tough-talking image, promised to reach out to those who opposed him in the divisive campaign.

"My thoughts go out to all those French people who did not vote for me," he said in a victory speech at the party headquarters of his Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

"I want to say to them that -- above and beyond the political fight, above and beyond differences of opinion -- for me there is only one France. I will be president of all the French. I will speak for all of them," he said.

World leaders were quick to acknowledge Sarkozy as France's new leader, including US President George W. Bush who telephoned to congratulate him within an hour of polls closing.

Some hope for a new era in US-France relations after the frostiness caused by Chirac's opposition to the Iraq war.

Sarkozy said the United States could count on France's friendship but urged it to show leadership in the struggle against global warming, saying it would be a priority for his government.

Chirac, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a host of European leaders also called Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying she was convinced he would maintain the French-German axis at the heart of the European Union.

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

"I gave it all I had and will continue to be with you and close to you," Royal said. But many experts now expect bitter recriminations within the left wing party over its new humiliation.

Sarkozy's election sparked angry protests by some Royal supporters -- as well as in high-immigration suburbs where the former interior minister's tough stance on crime has made him a hate figure for many.

Riot police fired tear gas at up to 300 stone-throwing protestors who burned an effigy of Sarkozy in the Place de la Bastille in central Paris, where about 5,000 Royal supporters had gathered, some shouting "Sarko-fascist".

Clashes with police broke out in the provincial cities of Bordeaux, Marseille, Lille, Nantes, Toulouse, Lyon, Nancy and Metz after crowds up to 2,000 people gathered to vent their anger, some stoning police lines.

Dozens of people were arrested in clashes that left several protestors and police injured, including two officers slightly hurt by acid in the western city of Nantes where shop windows were smashed and waste bins were set on fire.

Acts of arson and vandalism were also reported in suburbs across the Paris region, with around 100 cars torched.

In a sharp campaign jab on Friday, Royal had predicted Sarkozy's election could unleash violence in the suburbs.

Sarkozy will take over from Chirac on May 16, and has promised to quickly enact key items of his manifesto, planning a special National Assembly session to set off his reform drive following June's legislative elections.

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

These include the abolition of tax on overtime, big 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.

His right-wing programme was in sharp contrast to Royal's promise to extend state protection, create 500,000 jobs, and increase the minimum wage.

French newspapers Monday said Sarkozy had won a clear mandate for reform, but said he needed to heal the wounds of the hard-fought campaign.

"With the strong legitimacy his indisputable electoral performance gives him, the new president of the Republic can now begin his great transformation, but taking care, of course, to reconcile the French," commented the right-wing Le Figaro.

Sarkozy plans to retire for several days to a secret location in the period before his inauguration, to rest and plan the first days of his presidency.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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