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France's Sarkozy turns to forming govt, next polls
May 7, 2007 / 12:26 AM / 11 years ago

France's Sarkozy turns to forming govt, next polls

PARIS (Reuters) - French president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy disappeared on a retreat with his family on Monday to consider his government line-up and plot strategy for a crucial parliamentary election in June.

<p>Nicolas Sarkozy, France's newly-elected President, reacts to election results with UMP political party supporters in Paris, May 6, 2007. Sarkozy defeated Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal on Sunday. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>

Sarkozy, a combative conservative, won a strong mandate for political and economic change by winning 53.06 percent of the vote in Sunday’s presidential run-off against 46.94 for Socialist Segolene Royal.

But he needs to secure a majority in the election for the National Assembly on June 10 and 17 to make good on his vows to loosen rigid labor laws, trim fat from the public service, cut taxes and restore full employment.

“We are going to see how we can give him the biggest parliamentary majority possible so he can put into effect his undertakings,” Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told reporters outside Sarkozy’s campaign headquarters.

Sarkozy left Paris in the morning with his wife and son, after spending the night in a luxury hotel. They arrived unannounced on a private aircraft on the Mediterranean island of Malta, airport sources told Reuters on Monday.

“These few days rest were planned to put him more in the mindset of a president after the tumultuous battle,” said Claude Gueant, his campaign director.

“It will also be a few days to let him reflect on the make-up of his government team,” he told RTL radio.

His victory passed not without incident. On Monday night, between 300 and 400 youths who were chanting anti-Sarkozy slogans smashed shop windows and burnt at least 2 scooters at the historic Place de la Bastille in central Paris. There were several clashes between youths and police. More than 100 people were arrested.

Police used tear gas to disperse around 400 protestors in the western town of Nantes and french radio also reported several hundred protestors in the towns of Caen and Tours.

Police arrested 592 people overnight between Sunday and Monday after demonstrators set fire to 730 cars and injured 78 policemen in numerous incidents.

SOCIALIST WOUNDS

<p>Nicolas Sarkozy, France's newly-elected President, leaves the Fouquet's Hotel in Paris, May 7, 2007. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>

Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, will take office on May 16, succeeding President Jacques Chirac who is standing down after 12 years in power.

He is widely expected to appoint his closest political aide, Francois Fillon, as prime minister and name women to half the posts in a compact cabinet of just 15 ministers.

As the right prepared to extend their grip on power, France’s beaten Socialists looked to the future after suffering their third consecutive defeat at a presidential election.

The moderate wing shaped up for a fight with the left over the heart and soul of the party. But Socialist General Secretary Francois Hollande, who is the partner of Royal, called for a truce until after France’s election marathon ended in June.

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“Today we have to lead the battle for the legislative election, with everyone on board. Afterwards we need to rebuild the left,” he told RTL radio.

A breakdown of the election results by pollsters IPSOS made sober reading for the Socialists, with Sarkozy winning backing from a majority of private sector workers, pensioners and the self-employed. Some 52 percent of women also voted for him.

Royal, who made a big play for the female vote, gained support from the unemployed and those aged under 25.

REFORM RUSH

Sarkozy has promised a deluge of reforms in his first 100 days including plans to curb union powers, tighten sentencing for criminals and undermine the 35-hour work week, introduced by a previous leftist government, by cutting taxes on overtime.

Union leaders have denounced his proposals and France could face crippling strikes in the autumn of the sort that tripped Chirac when he took office in 1995 and tried to impose change.

“All attempt to pass things by force would backfire,” Jean-Claude Mailly, the secretary general of the Force Ouvriere union, said in a statement on Monday.

Foreign leaders rushed to congratulate Sarkozy and a White House spokesman said Washington looked forward to working with the new president following often frosty relations with Chirac, who was vehemently opposed to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer and Gerard Bon

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