Continued from page 1

Mr. Sarkozy has promised to “moralize capitalism” by relaxing the 35-hour work week introduced by the Socialists when they were in power, lowering taxes for households and companies, curbing the power of labor unions and overhauling the generous pension system and shock absorbers of government workers.

He also believes in what he once described as “economic patriotism,” meaning state support for enterprises that help France’s international prestige.

Miss Royal campaigned on a strong Socialist program that would protect all welfare-state benefits, create 500,000 subsidized jobs, raise the minimum wage by 20 percent and send juvenile offenders to boot camps supervised by the French army.

As the electoral campaign became more passionate, many started to question her qualifications for the country’s top job. Miss Royal is 53 years old, an unmarried mother of four, and has served in Cabinet posts in socialist governments.

To her supporters, she embodies charm, exceptionally good looks and “a moment of truth for femininity,” in a country that gave women the right to vote in only 1946 and ranks 22nd in the EU in the number of Cabinet members.

To Isabelle Courtiveron, a university professor, Miss Royal “represents a mixture of traditional France and rebellious modernity.” According to the IPSOS polling institute, the women’s vote went to Mr. Sarkozy.

No foreign policy shift

Foreign policy issues were singularly absent from the election campaign, with French commentators and analysts concluding that no major changes in that field should be expected.

By all indications, Mr. Sarkozy will continue France’s criticism of the war in Iraq, its strong role as a major partner and founding member in the EU, and demands for an independent European military force. He will try to improve relations with the United States, strained under Mr. Chirac.

Another significantly different aspect of his foreign policy program is opposition to Turkey’s application for EU membership, likely to put the union in a quandary but appeasing the voters who rejected the EU draft constitution in a 2005 referendum, fearing it would open a path to Turkish membership.

Critics say Mr. Sarkozy’s daunting economic program surpasses the possibilities offered by one five-year presidential mandate, despite the enormous power of the president under the constitution of the Fifth Republic established by the late Charles de Gaulle.

The president determines the defense and foreign policies, can dissolve parliament, can appoint and fire prime ministers, veto laws approved by parliament and pardon criminals. While in office, the president is immune from prosecution, something Mr. Chirac used to his benefit when faced with financial scandals from his tenure as mayor of Paris.

Key elections in June

Of some concern to the new president are the approaching legislative elections in June that will determine the color of the National Assembly and of the new Cabinet. If the Socialists, defeated in the latest parliamentary election five years ago, manage to win, Mr. Sarkozy would be forced into a system of “cohabitation” with a Socialist prime minister.

Mr. Sarkozy is confident this result is unlikely because of the strength of his party, the Union for Popular Movement. And confidence is something he has never lacked. As one of his political associates put it, “He could be left or right, but his allegiance is to success.”

Story Continues →