Sarkozy victory sparks disturbances across France

By staff writers
May 9, 2007

The presidential election victory this week of neo-Gaullist Nicolas Sarkozy over his remaining rival, Socialist candidate Segolene Royal, has been met with riots and disturbances in many parts of France.

Mr Sarkozy came to international political prominence during the previous wave of French unrest among migrant and marginalised communities when his populist law and order agenda, accompanied by anti-immigration rhetoric, produced both support and alarm in different constituencies.

Churches, ethnic groups, civil rights campaigners and commentators have been critical of Mr Sarkozy's record, but he achieved a 53% to 47% victory by promising sweeping economic and social reforms which have been described as being in the Thatcher mould.

The election campaign was accompanied by warnings of violence and even "civil war" if Mr Sarkozy chose to impose a narrow vision on a politically and culturally divided country. Within hours of the result being announced on Sunday night 3,000 riot police were deployed to areas where unrest might have been expected.

But the deployment has not quelled the dissent. Police and anti-Sarkozy protestors fought running battles cross France last night. Nearly 1,000 arrests have been made so far, hundreds of cars have been set ablaze and both commercial and civic property has been torched/

Those critical of the newly-elected president have been quick to say that violence is no answer. But they also say that the self-styled "top cop" who wants to "alter the psychology of France for ever" will need to face up to the bitter opposition he will face if he pursues headlong neo-liberal and anti-social welfare policies.

One emblematic site of rebellion was the Place de la Bastille in Paris, where last night a band of rioters fought running battles with teargas armed police.

Meanwhile Mr Sarkozy has retreated from public view to "recharge his batteries" before he is installed as French president, say supporters.

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