Monday, May 07, 2007

Sarkozy Triumphant! Violent Reactions Across France

It is official: Nicolas Sarkozy is the heir apparent to France's Elysee Palace. Sarkozy's victory came after the second highest voter turnout in the history of the V Republic (since 1958) at nearly 86%, slightly short of the 87% record in 1974. It was the highest voter turnout in four decades. Nicolas Sarkozy of the UMP party, son of a Hungarian immigrant, received the majority vote at 53% to Socialist challenger Segolene Royal's 47% .

Who voted Sarkozy, Royal?
IPSOS' telephone poll showed that 58% of the youngest voters (18-24) supported Royal,while Sarkozy took the next age bracket (25-34) with 57%. Sarkozy's strongest voting bloc was the over 60. Small business owners and rural voters leaned toward Sarkozy, while urbanites were divided.

Senior citizens don't have much to gain themselves from Sarkozy's plan to change the 35-hour work week and offer more deregulation of the economy. He isn't promising them any great social security increases. However, he has proposed to exempt 95 % of his countrymen from the inheritance tax.

The highly coveted votes from centrist Francois Bayrou in the first round were split, slightly favoring Sarkozy by 40% to Royal's 38% with a significant 15% of Bayrou supporters abstaining.

Despite far-right Front National candidate Jean Marie Le Pen's plea to his supporters to abstain, most of them voted for Sarkozy (63%), with 15% going to Royal and just over 20% abstaining.

Sarkozy rode to victory on these votes he picked up from the center and the far right.

Paris voting patterns
The breakdown of votes in Paris seems to suggest a class and generational bias:

Paris: Nicolas Sarkozy 50.19%, Ségolène Royal 49.81%
(See appendix below for complete breakdown of votes by arrondissement)
The poshest arrondissement (district or borough) in Paris, also not particularly young, is the 16th where Sarkozy received a whopping 80% of the vote. Almost as impressively, he scored in the mid-70th percentile in the 7th and 8th arrondissements, which are also known to be quite expensive, middle-aged to seniors, and conservative. Sarkozy took other major French cities, such as Lyon, Marseille, Nice, and Strasbourg. Royal's only major geographical strength was the West and Southwest, where she received the support of cities such as Montpellier and Toulouse.

Violent Clashes in Response
Over 3,000 police were deployed in Paris and the "potentially difficult" suburban areas that were marked by riots in 2005. Major anti-Sarkozy demonstrations occurred across the country, some turning violent. In Paris around the Bastille in the 11th arrondissement, around 2,000 especially young adults had gathered to hear the results as the polls closed. When they received the results, the crowd became animated and confrontations with police followed. Some shouted, "Police everywhere, Justice Nowhere!" and burned an effigy of Sarkozy. Several hundred people clashed with the police and smashed windows. By midnight, the police were firing tear gas as members of the crowd hurled stones at them. The police then turned a water cannon on the crowd. On the base of the Bastille centerpiece column was graffitied: “Sarko 2007 = Hitler 1933.”

Clashes with police also occurred in France's second largest city, Lyon, where police again fired tear gas into the crowd to disperse it. Protests and clashes also occurred in Grenoble, Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Metz and Marseille.

Some French citizens commented that they could not recall an election outcome in their lifetimes that had been met with similar outrage and violence.

According to the National Police, 730 cars were burned in metropolitan France Sunday night and early Monday morning following the election. Some 592 people were arrested for questioning. So far the French media have not referred to this violence as "riots."

Mr. Law and Order
Part of the high turnout and subsequent violence is due to Sarkozy's extremely polarizing rhetoric over the past three years. He has made security and immigration, work and authority his slogans ever since taking over the position of Ministry of the Interior in May 2005. He received constant public attention for his provocative comments about crime and the immigrant populations, most notably when he called suburban delinquents "scum" that he would remove from their streets with a power hose. Since those suburbs are populated by large numbers of Arabs and black Africans, many interpreted his comment as racist, though he has several times tried to repudiate the label.

During the November 2005 riots he blamed the violence on unemployment (due to socialist economic policies he alleged), different cultural values (such as polygamy) and lack of respect for the Republic on the part of the immigrant population. For him, the suburbs were divided between hard-working French citizens and lazy, violent criminals making illegal money through an underground drug economy. He spoke of the latter as mafias and gangs that had occupied territory belonging to the Republic , which he vowed to reclaim with more national police on site and stronger sentences for "hooligans."

Sarkozy has also favored liberal economic policies, calling for an end to the 35 hour work week in the name of citizens' freedom to work as much as they like. Other major policy proposals include making more use of nuclear energy, lowering the income tax by 4%, and abolishing the estate tax for all but 5% of the population. But to many citizens, he is known as the man who will re-establish law and order.

A recent controversy came in an interview Sarkozy did with philosopher Michel Onfray where he was accused of supporting a racist eugenics to explain an individual's behavior. In that interview he was of the view that "one is born a pedophile." The same for those who commit suicide or get cancer. "Circumstances don't do everything. The role of the innate is immense--genetically."

Critics have then taken such quotations as a context for his opposition to Turkey entering the European Union. In a recent debate, he claimed, "It's not about democracy, it's not about muslims. It's that if Turkey becomes Europe Europe's borders will be Iraq and Syria." It's simply about geography, he concluded.

However, Sarkozy has been on record making more than an argument about geography. Last fall he permitted an interview to a new neo-conservative magazine Le Meilleur des Mondes, which has a very small circulation. "We have a problem of integration of Muslims that raises the issue of Islam in Europe." he said. "To say it is not a problem is to hide from reality. If you let 100 million Turkish Muslims come in, what will come of it?" He went on to make the same comment about Iraq and Syria as the outrageous borders of Europe in such a scenario.

His critics have accused him of deviously exploiting the fears of racists, islamophobes, and generally uninformed citizens. But Sarkozy was able to accuse his opponent of similar fearmongering last week when Madame Royal publicly warned of possible riots if Sarkozy won.

In a victory speech Sarkozy addressed the nation last night, reminding it of his campaign slogans, his brand: "[Voters] have chosen to break with the habits and the ideals of the past so I will rehabilitate work, authority, morality, respect, merit!"

When he finished speaking, giddy supporters feted their hero to a rendition of the French national anthem. Some 30,000 supporters gathered Sunday night at the Place de la Concorde to celebrate Sarkozy's victory. Police closed down the metro stop there and several others nearby, anticipating possible clashes near the seat of government.

Sarkozy's defeated opponent Segolene Royal vowed to keep on fighting. She claimed something powerful had been "set in motion which will not be stopped [by this election outcome]," and that "You can count on me to continue building a renewed left."

Mr. Sarkozy will assume the presidency May 17 to the tune of the Marseillaise and a 21-gun salute. Bang, bang.

Appendix: Paris vote by Arrondissement

Paris 10ème arrondissement

Ségolène Royal 62.99%, Nicolas Sarkozy 37.01%

Paris 11ème arrondissement

Ségolène Royal 61.68%, Nicolas Sarkozy 38.32%

Paris 12ème arrondissement

Ségolène Royal 51.86%, Nicolas Sarkozy 48.14%

Paris 13ème arrondissement

Ségolène Royal 58.8%, Nicolas Sarkozy 41.2%

Paris 14ème arrondissement

Ségolène Royal 53.86%, Nicolas Sarkozy 46.14%

Paris 15ème arrondissement

Nicolas Sarkozy 59.82%, Ségolène Royal 40.18%

Paris 16ème arrondissement

Nicolas Sarkozy 80.81%, Ségolène Royal 19.19%

Paris 17ème arrondissement

Nicolas Sarkozy 62.8%, Ségolène Royal 37.2%

Paris 18ème arrondissement

Ségolène Royal 63.62%, Nicolas Sarkozy 36.38%

Paris 19ème arrondissement

Ségolène Royal 60.15%, Nicolas Sarkozy 39.85%

Paris 1er arrondissement

Nicolas Sarkozy 56.34%, Ségolène Royal 43.66%

Paris 20ème arrondissement

Ségolène Royal 64.63%, Nicolas Sarkozy 35.37%

Paris 2ème arrondissement

Ségolène Royal 54.08%, Nicolas Sarkozy 45.92%

Paris 3ème arrondissement

Ségolène Royal 57.06%, Nicolas Sarkozy 42.94%

Paris 4ème arrondissement

Nicolas Sarkozy 50.24%, Ségolène Royal 49.76%

Paris 5ème arrondissement

Ségolène Royal 50.89%, Nicolas Sarkozy 49.11%

Paris 6ème arrondissement

Nicolas Sarkozy 61.27%, Ségolène Royal 38.73%

Paris 7ème arrondissement

Nicolas Sarkozy 74.75%, Ségolène Royal 25.25%

Paris 8ème arrondissement

Nicolas Sarkozy 76.27%, Ségolène Royal 23.73%

Paris 9ème arrondissement

Nicolas Sarkozy 50.65%, Ségolène Royal 49.35%
(source: Liberation)

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