Sunday, May 06, 2007

France goes for Sarko

French voters went to the polls today in the second and final round of their presidential election. (I commented on the first round here. For more extensive and substantial reflections by the British blogger DavidP--who was hoping for a Ségolène Royale Victory--see here and here.)

Unlike the situation here in the US, votes in France tend to be counted quickly and efficiently. So not only do we know the winner, but the percentage estimates below should prove to be very close to the official results.
Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy has won the hotly-contested French presidential election, according to projections made from partial results.

Mr Sarkozy is estimated to have won 53% of the vote, compared with 47% for socialist Segolene Royal.

The turnout was the highest for more than two decades, at about 85%. [JW: An unimaginably high figure in the US, I'm afraid, but very, very high for France, too.]

Mr Sarkozy, 52, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, takes over from the 74-year-old Jacques Chirac, who has been in power for 12 years.
The polls had been predicting a victory for Sarkozy, but a lot of potential voters had continued to say they were undecided, so the outcome was not a sure thing. And my impression is that even with respect to the pre-election polls, Sarkozy's margin of victory was greater than most polls predicted.

It has been generally agreed that this was an unusually important election, perhaps even a historic defining moment for French society and politics (hence the heavy turnout). But what the actual long-term consequences will be remains to be seen. More on those matters later, perhaps .. but for the moment, I just wanted to mark the event.

--Jeff Weintraub

[P.S. For excerpts from Sarkozy's victory speech, see here.]

=========================
BBC World Service
Sunday, May 6, 2007 (19:35 GMT 20:35 UK)
Sarkozy takes French presidency

Nicolas Sarkozy
Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy has won the hotly-contested French presidential election, according to projections made from partial results.

Mr Sarkozy is estimated to have won 53% of the vote, compared with 47% for socialist Segolene Royal.

The turnout was the highest for more than two decades, at about 85%.

Mr Sarkozy, 52, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, takes over from the 74-year-old Jacques Chirac, who has been in power for 12 years.

Friendship for US

Thousands of his supporters in the Place de la Concorde burst into applause and wild cheering as the result came through.
France has given me everything, and now it is my turn to render to France what France has given me
Nicolas Sarkozy

In his victory speech, Mr Sarkozy said he would be the president of all the French.

"I love France. I love France, just as one loves someone who is very close to one," he told crowds of cheering supporters.

"France has given me everything, and now it is my turn to render to France what France has given me."

Mr Sarkozy said the US could count on France's friendship, but called on Washington to take a lead in the fight against climate change.

He also said he believed deeply in European integration, but appealed to France's European partners to understand the importance of social protection.

After he finished speaking at his party headquarters, jubilant supporters sang a rousing rendition of the French national anthem.

Third defeat

Ms Royal is the first woman ever to have made it to the second round of a French presidential election.
Segolene Royal
Ms Royal was gracious in defeat

Conceding defeat - the third in a row for France's Socialist Party - she thanked 17m French people for their votes, saying she could measure their sadness and their pain.

"I gave it all my efforts, and will continue," she told supporters. "Something has risen up that will not stop."

She expressed the hope that "the next president of the Republic" would accomplish his mission at the service of all the French people.

Mr Sarkozy has promised to try to reform France to face the challenges of the 21st century, with putting the nation back to work at the top of his agenda.

He has pledged to bring unemployment down from 8.3% to below 5% by 2012.

Police deployed

He is also expected to bring forward policies to cut taxes and keep trains running during strikes, in the first 100 days after he takes office on 17 May.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Many immigrants in my office are wearing Sarko badges
John, France


But the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says he will have to work hard to unite the French, and try to win round those who voted against him.

More than 3,000 police have been deployed in Paris and its multi-ethnic suburbs in case Mr Sarkozy's victory sparks a repeat of the riots seen in 2005.

French pundits greeted the record turnout as a victory for French democracy.

Both candidates worked hard to woo the supporters of the third-placed candidate in round one, centrist Francois Bayrou.

Polls suggest that they each won over 40% of the Bayrou voters, and that 20% did not cast a ballot in round two.

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