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Last Updated: Monday, 7 May 2007, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
France looks to new Sarkozy era
Nicolas Sarkozy leaves a Paris hotel, 7 May
Mr Sarkozy appeared relaxed as he left a Paris hotel on Monday
France is preparing to enter a new political era, one day after choosing right-wing Nicolas Sarkozy to be the country's next president.

Previously a divisive cabinet minister, Mr Sarkozy won a clear election victory over Socialist opponent Segolene Royal.

Mr Sarkozy has pledged to boost the economy by creating jobs, liberalise employment laws, be tough on crime and control immigration.

He officially takes over from Jacques Chirac on 16 May.

Before then, campaign aides say Mr Sarkozy, 52, will spend a few days resting at an undisclosed location to finalise his government line-up and policy priorities.

On Monday, Mr Sarkozy revealed that his choice of prime minister would be Francois Fillon, who is currently Mr Sarkozy's senior political adviser.

Mr Sarkozy's remarks came during a telephone conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The size of Sunday's election victory - a resounding win by 53% to 47% in a two-horse race, with a turnout of 85% - gives the new president real authority, correspondents say.

"We have to act, the French people expect it. They have given him a real mandate," chief of staff Claude Gueant told French radio.

France has given me everything, and now it is my turn to give back to France what France has given me
Nicolas Sarkozy

Mr Sarkozy is expected to quickly name a 15-strong cabinet for the start of his five-year term in office.

The first key hurdle for the new president will be nationwide parliamentary elections in June.

Securing a workable majority in the National Assembly would greatly ease the passage of Mr Sarkozy's planned reforms.

Early polling for those elections puts Mr Sarkozy's UMP party ahead of the Socialists by about six percentage points, the Reuters news agency reported.

Ms Royal's defeat was the Socialists' third successive presidential election loss, and the party is now expected to face calls for internal change.

Reform pledge

Mr Sarkozy has promised to try to reform France to face the challenges of the 21st century, and creating jobs is at the top of his agenda.

SARKOZY: KEY POLICIES
Exempt overtime (above 35 hours) from taxes and social security charges
Minimum sentences for repeat offenders, tougher sentences for juveniles
Selective immigration that favours arrival of qualified workers
Increase taxes on polluters
Oppose Turkish EU membership

He has pledged to bring unemployment down from 8.3% to below 5% by 2012.

During his first 100 days in office he is also expected to propose tax cuts and table legislation to keep trains running during strikes.

While he has said he will not end France's 35-hour working week, Mr Sarkozy proposes allowing staff to work overtime, as well as cutting restrictions on hiring and firing staff.

Known as a divisive figure from his years as a strict interior minister, Mr Sarkozy appears intent on a tough approach to law and order, favouring minimum sentences for repeat offenders and tougher sentences for juveniles.

He struck a conciliatory tone in his victory speech on Sunday evening, telling crowds in Paris and those watching around the country that he would be president "of all the French".

Himself the son of a Hungarian immigrant, Mr Sarkozy said: "France has given me everything, and now it is my turn to give back to France what France has given me."

HAVE YOUR SAY
I'd like to say congratulations and good luck to President-elect Sarkozy
Eric Loadman, USA

Nevertheless, there were minor clashes with protesters in Paris and some other cities after the result was announced.

Several hundred rioters in the Place de la Bastille threw bottles and stones at police, shouting "Sarko-fascist".

Two police officers were injured in Nantes, where 1,000 demonstrators turned to violence. Arrests were made in half-a-dozen cities, but the trouble soon subsided.

The election result was widely welcomed outside France, with the US, EU, China and Japan offering congratulations to Mr Sarkozy.

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was more cautious, saying he hoped Mr Sarkozy would review his opposition to Turkey joining the EU.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Tony Blair congratulates Nicolas Sarkozy on YouTube



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