- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2007

From combined dispatches

PARIS — Police braced for a third night of angry protests yesterday after Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential victory triggered violence in cities across the country, where cars were torched and windows smashed.

Leaders of the defeated Socialists appealed for calm after protesters clashed with police during protests of Mr. Sarkozy in Paris, and in the major cities of Lyon, Lille, Toulouse, Nantes and Rennes.

About 500 youths shouting, “Sarko, fascist,” went on a rampage in the Bastille district of eastern Paris on Monday night, burning 10 cars, looting two stores including a supermarket and smashing windows, police said.

More than 200 people were rounded up during four hours of clashes in which protesters threw stones, beer cans and bottles at police, one of whom was injured. Fifteen persons remained in custody yesterday.

The national police said 365 cars were torched in cities across France on Monday night — half the 730 vehicles set on fire in the hours that followed Mr. Sarkozy’s victory speech on Sunday — and 160 persons were arrested, mostly members of far-left groups.

Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande appealed for calm and urged protesters to take their revenge at the ballot box during legislative elections next month.

“Those who are waging this violence are playing into the hands of those who want more order, who want to be tougher,” Mr. Hollande told RTL radio. “There can be disappointment, anger, frustration, but the only way to respond is at the ballot box. There is no other way.”

Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal had warned of renewed violence in case of a Sarkozy victory, and had sought to make the campaign a referendum on Mr. Sarkozy’s polarizing personality.

Voters favored Mr. Sarkozy anyway, handing him a mandate for reforms that include tax cuts and new labor rules making it easier to hire and fire workers. He faces a challenge in carrying this out in a country that cherishes its generous social safety net.

The troublemakers this week have been mostly white, whereas riots in 2005 involved many black and Arab youths angry over discrimination and alienation from mainstream society. This week’s protesters resembled some of the young people who helped bring down a minor labor reform last year through mass demonstrations.

Legislative elections on June 10 and 17 will decide whether the new president will have the strong majority needed to push through his program of tough economic and social reforms.

Mr. Sarkozy was on a yacht in the Mediterranean, making time to rest before he takes over from Jacques Chirac next Wednesday.

Critics on the left assailed him for his high-cost retreat: The yacht belongs to magnate Vincent Bollore and is outfitted with huge plasma televisions and a whirlpool bath.

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