Sarkozy, the Victor, or What I Did When I Became President Elect
It’s 8 p.m. sharp on Sunday, May 6, and TF1’s Claire Chazal (France’s Katie Couric; her topless image graced French tabloid magazine covers last summer) and Patrick Poivre d’Arvor (France’s Dan Rather; and also the real life model of the marionette anchor on Les Guignols, the very popular and hilarious puppet news show) announce Mr. Sarkozy’s victory—53 percent of the vote versus Segolène Royal’s 47—in a dramatic countdown from ten. Miss Royal is the first to take the mic. Despite her defeat, she is ever-smiling, and, as she pronounces her discourse, she is calm and succinct. “I have given all of my force…. I want to thank all of the activists that have helped create this great democratic moment.”
Let the Party Begin
30,000 Sarkozists follow the results on giant screens set up at the Place de la Concorde, the massive plaza (the second largest in all of France) in the 8th arrondissement; also ex-home of the guillotine during the French Revolution—over 1000 decapitated, including Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. The crowd jeers at Miss Royal’s image and suddenly goes silent as their vanquisher appears on screen and addresses France for the first time as President-elect. Once a controversial, temperamental character among some, tonight he is open armed and magnanimous, embodying his campaign mantra, “Together, everything is possible.”
“I will be the President of all the French; I will speak for every one of them…. I call all the French, regardless of their party, beliefs, and origins to unite with me so that France will begin moving," he says. "Vive la République et vive la France!” In the back seat of a black Mercedes, Mr. Sarkozy is lead down the rue de la Boétie toward the Champs Elysées. Police motorcycles surround his car while the curious public and paparazzi on mopeds swerve toward his open window, where Mr. Sarkozy’s protruding hand is waving at them. First, a quick stop at Fouquet’s, the ultra-flash hotel/restaurant on the corner of George V and the Champs. Anxious, trembling magnums of Dom Perignon and La Grande Dame pop at his arrival, the President-elect quenches the thirst of ultimate victory after an exhausting campaign. But not so; Mr. Sarkozy is not a drinking man. Instead, a quick hello to his proches, like French rocker Johnny Hallyday. Onward, finally, to the Place de la Concorde, where his myriad supporters await, entertained in the interim by on-stage Faudel, the French pop star. At eleven o’clock, Mr. Sarkozy stands next to him. He thanks the “artists” that have supported him. The aged Mireille Mathieu steals the mic and kicks off La Marsellaise, rolling R’s in a scratchy voice. She is followed by an open mic: a cappella performances by other celebrities (including the American, Jane Manson). Mr. Sarkozy admires and keeps rhythm with the clapping of his hands. And he is gone.
Monday: breakfast at Fouquet’s, Falcon 900 EX private jet ride to Malta, Mercedes S Class to the island’s principal port, Marina Manoel Island, and finally, safely afloat the Mediterranean’s turquoise-blue waters on a 60 meter yacht, the Paloma. It’s not even lunchtime the day after, and Mr. Sarkozy, who earned 124,960 Euros in 2004, is in the midst of a 200,000+ Euros, three-day getaway with his rarely seen wife, Cécilia, and their son, Louis. Luckily (for him), he’s been invited by Vincent Bolloré, French billionaire businessman.
“I am honored to receive Mr. Sarkozy and his family,” Mr. Bolloré tells the press two days later. “[Le Groupe Bolloré] has never had any commercial relationship with the French state.” Mr. Sarkozy, however, is back in Paris by Wednesday night, cutting short his sojourn (bad press): he will not spend the night in Nice, as planned, nor visit les Alpilles (the picturesque massif of Provence). “If a political man is efficient, I don’t see why he should have to live modestly.” A more personal Sarkozy mantra?
Inside the Numbers
As of Election Day 2007, there were 44,472,363 French citizens registered to vote, the highest number ever—16.03 percent of them abstained while 4.2 percent of them voted blanc, which makes about 9 million registered voters who didn’t actively vote for either candidate. Of the remaining 35,774,019 voters, 18,983,408 voted for Sarkozy, and 16,790,611 voted for Royal. By Thursday, May 10, over 1,000 cars had been successfully incinerated by protesters, mainly in city centers: Paris, Lyon, Nantes…. The banlieues (suburbs), home of the 2005 car burnings—there were over 45,000 cars burned in the whole of France in 2005—and home of Miss Royal’s most ardent support (over 85 percent of the vote in most of the un-chic burbs), remained eerily peaceful.
Nicolas Sarkozy officially becomes president of the fifth republic of France on May 16, 2007. What does this mean for France? The hopeful look forward to a more progressive, liberal French economy where the hard-working are financially rewarded, a system also known as the American dream (his admiration of the American economy is no secret). They dream of a French society free of burning cars and excessive rioting and strikes; free of social payouts to the world’s destitute who find their way onto French soil. The hopeless draw Napoleonic comparisons (apparently, Mr. Sarkozy stood on a short stool during a photo op with President Bush in order to gain equal height): a little, angry, power-driven man. His well-documented, insulting outbursts, while usually quite intimate, are scary in the presidential context, especially when coupled with his affinity with the police (he is ex-Minister of the Interior). Likewise, his host of friends in powerful business and media positions is threatening, while his fierce nationalistic doctrine has immigrants packing bags. One thing is certain: Mr. Sarkozy is a motivated, driven, efficient man, which is, simply, why he was elected. “We are going to change the country. We are going to make the lines move,” he reiterated his rally cry upon his return from Malta. The hopeful are crossing their fingers. The hopeless are shuddering.