Pro-U.S. Candidate Wins French Presidency

Sarkozy wants to open labor markets and toughen measures on crime, immigration.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 7:39 PM

PARIS, May 7, 2007 — -- Last night, Nicolas Sarkozy's "motorcade" looked more pop star than presidential. With the results just in, announcing him the winner, he took a victory lap of Paris. The paparazzi did their best to keep up.

Sarkozy's route took him past the Arc de Triomphe and up the Champs Elysée, right past the Elysée Palace, where he will take up residence in two weeks. All the while the scooters and motorcycles gave chase. France's famously aggressive photographers are nothing if not persistent.

Sarkozy's commanding victory is a strong mandate for change. The central theme of his campaign was "la rupture" -- a clean break with the past. He is vowing to shake things up here. "I want to bring back work, authority, morale, respect and merit," he told his supporters. The crowd ate it up.

Sarkozy has dreamt his whole life of this moment. He has long held ambitions to lead his country. The grandson of Hungarian Jewish immigrants who later converted to Catholicism, he is the product of state universities, not the elite schools that normally serve as the breeding ground of French politicians. He may be short in stature, but like Napoleon he is known here as a tough leader, a force to be reckoned with.

Sarkozy brings generational change to French politics. For the first time, France will have a president born after World War II. He is also the most pro-American politician to come along here in years. Sarkozy's opponent tried to use that against him. Socialist Segolene Royal branded him a "George Bush neocon," and her supporters used a smiling photo of him with Bush taken last September to make fun of him. They called him "an American with a French passport" and the leader of "the French unit of Bush and company."

In France, where anti-Americanism runs high, Sarkozy has had to moderate his enthusiasm for the United States during the campaign. He has made it clear he would be "friendly but frank." And while in the past he has criticized the arrogance of the Chirac administration on foreign policy issues, he has recently clarified that France has been vindicated in its opposition of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.