Nicolas Sarkozy, back from a post-election vacation, plunged
into preparing for the presidency Thursday, huddling with lawmakers
from his conservative party to plan strategy for next month's
legislative elections that are crucial to his plans for reform.
Sarkozy was to make his first public appearance since Sunday's
election victory, alongside outgoing President Jacques Chirac at a
ceremony commemorating victims of slavery. Sarkozy takes over on
May 16 from Chirac, who is leaving after 12 years in office.
Anti-Sarkozy protests continued for a fourth night, though
post-election unrest that left more than 1,200 cars burned around
the country earlier this week appeared to be ebbing.
Hundreds of far-left protesters marched through Paris' Latin
Quarter on Wednesday evening. Riot police detained dozens of people
while enforcing a buffer zone between those protesters and
far-right activists holding a commemoration nearby, officials
Sarkozy was meeting Thursday morning with some 500 lawmakers from
his UMP party to prepare for parliamentary elections on June 10 and
17. The party currently has a large majority in both houses of
parliament but must keep it that way if Sarkozy wants to follow
through quickly on ambitious plans to cut taxes, reform labor laws
and minimize the effect of France's frequent strikes.
Sarkozy's vow to fire up France's sluggish economy with
market-liberating reforms and pared-down social benefits has put
many parts of French society on edge. He is also widely reviled by
minority youth in rundown housing projects that erupted in riots in
2005 over entrenched discrimination and poverty.
Sarkozy faced a barrage of criticism from opponents for taking
off the morning after his election on a yacht trip funded by a
billionaire investor friend. Sarkozy refused to apologize,
insisting it was his right to take time off before taking over the
The flap over the luxury outing highlights the complicated
relations the French notably the anti-Sarkozy left have with
wealth, and could portend the challenge the new president will face
in pushing through economic reforms.
Unlike previous French leaders, Sarkozy makes no secret of his
monied connections and taste for the lifestyle of the
And Sarkozy's frank rapport with money carries risks in a
society that has grown fragile by a slumping economy and tends to
cultivate discretion when it comes to wealth.
(China Daily via agencies May 11, 2007)