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The next president of France has hardly more than a week to celebrate his victory and get ready to govern. Nicolas Sarkozy takes over on May 16th. He won office over the weekend defeating the socialist candidate, Segolene Royal. And now, France is preparing for political and economic reform.
We have report this morning from Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
(Soundbite of television)
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: When the television announcer counted down to reveal the next president of France, the thousands of Sarkozy supporters gathered before large TV screens in the street outside his Paris headquarters exploded with joy.
(Soundbite of people cheering)
BEARDSLEY: Here, like 19-year-old Guillaume Avelin feel that the rigorous Sarkozy is the man to turn the French economy around.
Mr. GUILLAUME AVELIN (Sarkozy Supporter): Now things are going to change in France. We are going to come back to full employment. The people are very happy as you can hear it. And France is going to win, and it's going to be, again, a great country.
(Soundbite of people chanting)
BEARDSLEY: The tough-talking former interior minister won on a platform of economic and social reform. He promised to put people back to work and jumpstart the French economy. He also said he'd sweep away what he calls the values of the 1968 student revolution that he says have degraded France.
Mr. NICOLAS SARKOZY (President-elect, France): (Through translator) The French people have expressed themselves and they chose to break with the ideas, habits and behavior of the past. I would rehabilitate work, authority, morals, respect, and merit.
(Soundbite of people chanting)
BEARDSLEY: Such talk is anathema to many supporters of Segolene Royal, who gathered at her headquarters in bitter disappointment. Many here see Sarkozy as an authoritarian figure who will aggravate France's social divide. In the run-down suburbs around many French cities, reactions to the election results ranged from gloom to outright anger as youths set cars on fire and skirmished with police.
Royal's defeat is a severe blow for French socialists, who has not held the presidency since Francois Mitterrand's last term ended in 1995. Royal who never seemed to convince voters that she had enough substance, made her concession speech quickly. She kept her smile, but never mentioned her opponent's name.
Ms. SEGOLENE ROYAL (Presidential Candidate, France): (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: I gave all my force and I will continue with you and near you said Royal.
(Soundbite of blaring car horns)
BEARDSLEY: Downtown Paris celebrated as car horns blared along the Champs-Elysees. Political commentator Nicole Bacharan says the election was a triumph of a platform proposing far-reaching reforms for Europe's third largest economy, over one stressing the need to preserve the country's welfare state.
Ms. NICOLE BACHARAN (Political Commentator): People chose with a significant majority to open up, look what's happening outside and join the European nations that, you know, have basically managed to create full employment and can compete in the global economy.
BEARDSLEY: In his speech, Sarkozy said he would govern in unity and fraternity and be the president of all the French people. When he finished, and the crowd began to sing the "Marseillaise," the Hungarian immigrant's son who has had his sights on the French presidency for decades just stepped back and seemed to take it all in.
For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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