What Does Sarkozy's Agenda Hold?

What are the implications of Nicolas Sarkozy's victory? Christian Malard, senior foreign affairs correspondent for France 3 television, offers his insights.

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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

The people of France turned out in high numbers yesterday to elect Nicolas Sarkozy as their new president.

Unidentified Man: (French spoken)

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ROBERTS: Sarkozy told cheering crowds that the French voters have chosen change. Sarkozy handily defeated socialist candidate Segolene Royal in a victory for a more conservative brand of governing.

Joining me now is Christian Malard, senior foreign affairs correspondent for France 3 Television. Christian Malard, the margin of victory - it was decisive - 53 percent to 47 percent. Did that surprise you?

Mr. CHRISTIAN MALARD (Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent, France 3 Television): No, because all the polls have been giving the key to Sarkozy for a long time. And the explanation is very simple. You had two visions of France facing each other, Segolene Royal on the one hand and Sarkozy on the other hand. And it's clear that the debate which took place three days before was very decisive when we saw a definitely more clear, coherent, explicit Sarkozy on his program, on his vision of the future, on his vision of political, social France of 2007 until 2012. And we had Segolene Royal with a different vision of the future, which explained clearly that she was defeated yesterday. There was no surprise on that.

ROBERTS: Part of Sarkozy's vision for the future is that he says he wants to make France more competitive. What do you think that means? What policies is he likely to implement?

Mr. MALARD: Right, not only France more competitive, the challenge is to give a brand-new image of France, which has been very tarnished since the French said no through the referendum of the European constitution. And Sarkozy himself wants to give a new impulse, a new dynamic to France. So we would see what's kept in store, but definitely Sarkozy is going to face a tough challenge. He is expected to take a lot of drastic steps concerning economy and social matters. He will be judged on that, and he doesn't have much time.

ROBERTS: And what about with the immigrant community? He has said he wants to be president of all of France. He's the son of a Hungarian immigrant himself but he's seen as something as a polarizing figure there. Do you think he's likely to further divide French society?

Mr. MALARD: No, he - it's a good question. He says I am not against immigration. But what he's saying is he said, we cannot tolerate immigration which is not legal. So what Sarkozy says is - we are not standing against immigration but we have to do like the Canadians. We have to have selected immigration. And this is why he will be very careful on that. But it's not that he's against immigration, but he wants something to be done very rationally.

ROBERTS: On this side of the Atlantic, Sarkozy is considered more pro-American, more pro-Europe. Do you think we'll see a difference in France's international relations?

Mr. MALARD: Well, it's clear that Sarkozy will have more open approach to his relationship with the United States. He's very different from Jacques Chirac. He was not the favorite of Jacques Chirac. No way that Chirac really loved Sarkozy. I think for President Bush the relationship would be more clear with Sarkozy, but it doesn't mean that Sarkozy will accept blindly all what President Bush would like him to do. Same thing for Europe; I think Sarkozy wants to have France find its right place inside Europe. So I think the relationship will be eased, but globally it will be probably - it would be closer to United States than Chirac has been.

ROBERTS: Christian Malard is senior foreign affairs correspondent for France 3 Television. Thank you so much.

Mr. MALARD: Thank you. Pleasure.

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ROBERTS: This is NPR News.

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