It is in this light that the defeat of the Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, must be seen. To combat France's woes, she promised... more of the same. E.g., as late as the televised debate between the candidates, one week ago, she still gave lukewarm support to the catastrophic 35-hour working week implemented virtually everywhere, from cafes over large companies to public offices. By contrast, Sarkozy, the 52-year old son of a Hungarian immigrant, has vowed that 35 hours of working a week should be a minimum, not a maximum. For decades, Frances politicial class has actually looked down on labor itself, and indeed, when the 35-hour working week was introduced in the mid-nineties by then Minister of Work and Employment Martine Aubry, one of the stated goals was that the French should have more leisure time! Talk like that never cut wood with human dynamo Sarkozy, who was already a mayor of the Parisian suburb Neuilly at age 22. Instead, he, a great admirer of Anglosaxon work ethics, based his campaign on the right of people to work, and work hard, and get rich with it:
"I want the workers to be respected. I want to protect the French from seeing their jobs going abroad. I don't believe in living on social welfare. I don't believe everyone is the same. I believe in merit, I believe in effort and reward for that effort and I believe in social mobility. But above all, I believe in hard work."
As for the other chalklines of Sarkozy's policy, it is assumed that the relations with the US will become significantly better. With regards to Europe, he champions a softly-softly approach towards more integration, proposing a mini-Constitutional Treaty to be ratified by French Parliament instead of risking a new referendum to get the European Constitution through. Being a firm believer in a United States of Europe myself - although I am aware that it will create even more "state" at the supranational level - I think this is indeed the right way too follow. After all, as long as Europeans don't bother to actually understand what the European Project really is, a ratification by Parliament is perfectly legal and sufficient. A referendum is useless as long as people generally don't even know what it is they are against. The only caveat I am making here is that the 500-plus page monstrosity be reduced to at least one tenth of its actual size, and with the US Constitution as an example.
Furthermore, Sarkozy wants to reduce the number of French bureaucrats - the French State is indeed top-heavy, with one in four jobs being provided by the government in one of its forms. As good as that may sound, though, it would be premature to call Sarkozy a libertarian, or indeed even a free markets advocate. He, too, does not want to touch the social welfare state, apart from some streamlining. And he; too, has protectionist reflexes. But all in all, I expect French policy under Sarkozy to undergo a sea-change to the right after Chirac, who was a rightwinger in name only. Another very significant stance: he doesn't want Turkey in the EU. And given the developments in that country - I am not overly optimistic about the recent secular showdown there - damn right he is.
Last but not least, as for France's un(der)reported Intifada, we may expect a crackdown on the bad*sses, and I do hope the new French President will make hard his promise to "kaercher the banlieuses" (a "Kaercher" is a High Pressure Water hose). Hell, as far as I am concerned he can deploy Leclerc tanks instead of Kaerchers. As if in anticipation, the more it became clear this evening that Sarkozy would be the winner, the more the famous French "youths" became agitated. They were obviously not amused. The irreplaceable French blog NoPasaran! reports:
Mohamed Mechmache, President of AC Le Feu -- an association created following the November 2005 riots, has ominously warned that "France did not understand the message sent during the riots in October and November of 2005."
In Lille, just before 22h00, around 200 anarchists French youths with black flags grouped around the Grand Place and chanted "Fascist Sarko, the people will have your hide". After pelting riot police, the demonstrators were dispersed. One demonstrator was injured. Firemen in the south of Lille have answered 20 alarms for torched vehicles...
*sshole. To me it looks like France DID understand the message. Anyway, here's more:
500 demonstrators, composed of people coming from Ségolène Royal's
headquarters as well as suburban French youth, converged towards a barge docked on the Rhône river that was rented for a Sarkozy victory party. Fully loaded garbage cans were thrown from a nearby bridge, missing the barge. Fights broke out on the riverside shortly shortly after. Riot police surrounded the barge and aimed flash guns at the demonstrators.
At 10PM France2 TV mentions anti-Sarkozy demonstrations by French youths in the city centers of Rennes and Nantes. Groups of 20-30 French youths have started pelting police in Sevran, Blanc-Mesnil, Aulnay-sous-Bois and Villepinte. TF1 TV has just shown video of French youths vandalizing the area around the Place de la Bastille in Paris where Ségolène Royal would have had her victory celebration had she won.
Several towns in Essonne have experienced violence following the Sunday night election results. Open air sporting event structures and schools have been targeted by firebombs in Ris-Orangis, Corbeil-Essonnes et Evry. In Evry, a police patrol was shot at at the Place de la Commune. Unidentified gunmen armed with pump rifles were spotted in the Grande Borne à Grigny."
So it already looks like France's president elect has some work cut out for him. However, let some reports from no doubt very upset and extremely humiliated