Victorious Sarkozy promises change

first_imgPARIS – Nicolas Sarkozy, the passionate, pugnacious son of a Hungarian immigrant, was elected president of France on Sunday, promising a break with the past, a new style of leadership and a renewal of relations with the rest of Europe and the United States. Sarkozy’s triumph over Segolene Royal, the Socialist candidate, was a huge blow to her party and abruptly terminated her effort to make history by becoming the country’s first woman president. But Royal tried to rally her supporters, telling them French politics had forever changed with her candidacy. With slightly more than 98 percent of the vote counted, Sarkozy had 53.1 percent and Royal 46.9 percent, according to official Interior Ministry figures. Royal repeatedly had appealed to the women of France to vote for her in a show of female solidarity. But Sarkozy, who made his reputation as a hard-line interior minister promising to revive work, merit and morals, got the majority of the women’s vote, according to Ipsos, an international polling company. The Ipsos telephone poll of voters showed the youngest tended to support Royal, while the rural voters preferred Sarkozy, and city dwellers were divided. Sarkozy’s strongest support came from voters age 60 and older. His victory set off some scattered violence by anti-Sarkozy demonstrators in Paris and some other cities, but for the most part France stayed calm. The election was marked by an enormous turnout. An estimated 85.5 percent of France’s 44.5 million registered voters cast ballots, about five percentage points higher than the level five years ago. In an emotional acceptance speech to thousands of cheering supporters in a rented exhibit space at the chic Eighth Arrondissement, Sarkozy renewed his campaign pledge to break what he called outmoded habits of France. “The French people have chosen change,” Sarkozy declared. “I will implement that change, because that is the mandate I received and because France needs change.” He vowed to “rehabilitate work, authority, morality, respect and merit.” Sarkozy, who has been widely criticized in France for his strong pro-American sentiments, sought to strike a balanced approach to Washington. “I want to tell it that France will always be by its side when it needs her, but that friendship is also accepting the fact that friends can think differently,” he said. He specifically criticized the United States for obstructing the fight against global warming, which he said would be a high priority in France. President George W. Bush telephoned Sarkozy to congratulate him. Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman, quoted Bush as saying he “looks forward to working with President-elect Sarkozy as we continue our strong alliance.” Foreshadowing an activist role on the world stage, Sarkozy called for a new union of the Mediterranean region and vowed to fight global poverty and oppression and to forge a new role for the European Union. “Tonight, France is back in Europe,” he said. He also struck a conciliatory note, lacking throughout much of his campaign, as he reached out to the millions of French people who fear him, especially in the country’s ethnically and racially mixed suburbs, where he is accused of fueling tensions with his provocative language and an aggressive police presence. “To all those French who did not vote for me, I want to say, beyond political battles, beyond differences of opinion, for me there is only one France. I want to tell them that I will be president of all the French,” Sarkozy said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more