Sarkozy Win Comes From Unlikely Corners

The Associated Press
Monday, May 7, 2007; 5:50 PM

PARIS -- Nicolas Sarkozy won the women's vote and fared well among blue-collar workers, even though his rival for the French presidency was a woman and a Socialist.

It was one of the surprising subplots in Sarkozy's resounding election victory over Segolene Royal _ and shows his vision of pro-market reforms and scaling back immigration appeals to a wide audience.

Sarkozy's ability to attract votes from a broad spectrum of the public is an early indication he may be able to overcome his image as a polarizing force and achieve crucial popular support for pushing through his ambitious program of overhauling France's welfare system.

Official figures showed Sarkozy won France's one-time industrial heartland in the north, which French media said had not voted for a rightist presidential candidate since Charles de Gaulle in 1965.

Sarkozy even tallied nearly 44 percent of the vote in the Seine-Saint-Denis region north of Paris, where a wave of rioting erupted in late 2005 while he was interior minister and infuriated many there by calling troublemakers "scum."

Right after his victory, angry youths burned cars and clashed with police in several cities. Police reported Monday that 730 cars were burned and at least 592 people detained overnight across the country, while some 78 officers were injured.

On Monday night, several hundred people massed for a second night at the Place de la Bastille in Paris, breaking windows in shops and starting street fires. Riot police dispersed them.

Experts said Sarkozy was able to steal working-class votes from the left by playing up his tough cop image and by pounding away at the theme that he believes in rewarding hard work.

"The main attraction among workers were the security-immigration duo, which works, and the values of hard work: He put the emphasis on increasing purchasing power," said Frederic Dabi, a pollster with Ifop.

Perhaps most striking was the 52 percent of the women's vote he captured against 48 percent for Royal, which indicated the campaign transcended gender issues and became truly a choice between ideas _ the tough-love message of Sarkozy against Royal's more nurturing vision.

"Royal didn't gain any advantage with her argument that she was a mother of four. It had no effect," said Pierre Giacometti, director of the Ipsos agency. "Neither feminism nor machismo had its place."

In the campaign, Sarkozy dared to attack the status quo with calls to do away with inheritance tax on small and medium estates and cut the number of public sector workers. He also evoked issues of national identity and immigration that were once the stomping ground of extreme-right nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen.

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