Monday, May 07, 2007
What everyone thought would happen, has happened. Nicolas Sarkozy is France's new president. Ever since I have lived in France, some four years now, he appears to have dominated the political news through his high profile role as minister of the interior (giving speeches to massed crowds of police) and head of the UMP (giving speeches to eager young supporters). There is no doubt that he was always a man in charge of his own destiny, a clever political manoueverer and a forceful debater. When he was interviewd on the TV a week ago by Charles Bremner, the Times Paris-correspondant seemed to shake in his boots. About the interview, Bremner later wrote:
It's impressive watching the Sarko machine at work. He comes with a big entourage of lieutenants, aides, advisers and security people, mostly men and most of them taller. The boss, though pint-sized, exudes energy and command.
Ségolène Royal had her work cut out from the beginning. As a woman, she faced a difficult job to convince the older generation that she was fit for office, simply because they believed it was not a role for a woman. To men she seemed quite electable, someone who could argue her idea forcibly. But somehow, many women took against her, finding themselves ill at ease with her strong character.
One thing was for sure, Ségolène Royal stood up for what she believed in at every turn. She made Sarkozy look like a one-trick pony. But what a trick! There was only one major tenet to his campaign: he would make France work harder. Nothing more than that. When he says: 'We will leave no one by the roadside', what he means is: 'We will leave no one by the roadside lounging around.'
Last night, following the TV announcement at 8pm, thousands celebrated Sarkozy's victory at Place de la Concorde. But elsewhere, things were not so seemly. In the early hours of this morning, a friend living in the centre of Paris sent me a long 'reportage' on the riots she had just witnessed in Place de la Bastille. There are plenty of photos here on Hugo's flickr account.
While some may complain, the majority in France feel that the country needs the adrenalin injection that Sarkozy is offering. All sorts of reforms are needed to make society more mobile and to make it easier for those who aspire to business success. It will be interesting to see whether Sarkozy can succeed in his self-appointed role, or whether his political style will be too devisive for a country grown used to the gentle touch.