Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images
French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy leaves Fouquet's restaurant on Paris' Champs Elysees, May 7.
Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy won the French presidency in a weekend runoff on a platform promising economic and social reform at home. But he is also expected to bring a fresh perspective to foreign policy and possible improvement in relations with the United States.
Sarkozy beat his Socialist rival Segolene Royal by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent in Sunday's vote. He has said he wants to free up labor markets, abolish France's 35-hour work week and enact tougher measures on crime and immigration.
In front of thousands of energized supporters after clinching the victory Sunday night, Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, gave an impassioned preview of his presidency.
He claimed a mandate but also reached out to people who didn't vote for him. He said France would help the European Union solve its constitutional crisis. He also signaled better relations with the United States, despite differences between the two nations in recent years, most notably over France's decision not to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
"I want to reach out to our American friends," Sarkozy told the cheering crowd. "I want to tell them that France will always be at their side when they need her. But I want to say, too, that friendship also means that people can think differently."
The new French president, sometimes referred to as "Sarko l'Americain," has never hid his admiration for America. A poster showing Sarkozy shaking hands with President Bush was used by opponents to label him as an American lap dog.
Nicholas Uanidas, a 26-year-old Sarkozy supporter, said he is pleased that the new president wants to repair relations with America.
"I think he obviously wants to turn the Iraq page. … Obviously the U.S. has saved us in the second World War. We can't forget this, you know," Uanidas said.
While Sarkozy was against the Iraq war, he said he also opposed the way France tried to block the invasion. He has also criticized what he calls French arrogance on the world stage. Even so, international relations expert Dominique Moisy said that Sarkozy is not likely to shake up French diplomacy.
"His priority is domestic politics," Moisy said. "There is going to be a change in style vis-à-vis the United States of America, but probably not a change of content."
In his speech, Sarkozy said a great nation such as the United States should lead the struggle against global warming, rather than obstruct it. He said the fight against climate change would be France's top priority, a move that shows he's a modern president but not in lock-step with Washington, which has failed to sign the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases.