May 7, 2007, French election results
DUBLIN, IRELAND – Nicolas Sarkozy has won a clear mandate for change in France with his decisive victory over Segola¨ne Royal in the French presidential election yesterday. There was one telling exchange between the two French presidential candidates last week:”I will be the president of what works,” Royal said. To which Sarkozy replied:”People don’t vote for us to complicate what works, but on the contrary, to fix what doesn’t.” That contrast between progressive change/security and radical surgery was the dominant feature between left and right in the election campaign. Sarkozy campaigned throughout with the slogan of seeking a rupture -a clean break -with the French politics of recent years and French voters turned out in impressive numbers to endorse that position.Sarkozy is very different from President Chirac, not a true Gaullist, more pro-business, pro-American and typical of traditional French policymakers only in his willingness to support French interests through state protectionism. As the son of a Hungarian immigrant, who never attended the elite establishment schools, Sarkozy has been an atypical representative of the political right. In Testimony, Sarkozy’s book published in English, he writes,”I’m not trying to be provocative for the sake of it, but trying to wake people up in a way that’s urgently needed.” He continues:”The French are not afraid of change. They’re waiting for it. It’s politics that has gradually become sclerotic, predictable and rigid over the last few years, not society.” It remains to be seen whether the Sarkozy presidential victory will be confirmed by a right-wing majority in the French Parliament, the National Assembly, on June 17th. If voters take fright and elect a Socialist majority, leading to another period of cohabitation like that between Chirac and Jospin, it will be difficult for Sarkozy to implement his program of radical change. Tonight, however, Sarkozy sounded confident in announcing that”France has voted for change, and I will give it to them.” That will likely be a painful change (i.e. strikes, street demonstrations confrontations, etc.), but France needs it.