Nicolas Sarkozy, France's neo-conservative president
May 7, 2007 - 8:45:05 AM

Paris, May 7 - France's new president-elect, Nicolas Sarkozy, represents a new type of leader for the country in many ways.

Nicolas Paul Stephane Sarkozy de Nagy-Bocsa was born in Paris on Jan 28, 1955, to an exiled Hungarian aristocrat and the daughter of a Greek-Jewish doctor who had converted to Catholicism.

Sharp-tongued and unabashedly ambitious, Sarkozy famously announced his intention to run for the presidency in 2004 on a television talk show. When asked if he ever thought about becoming president of France, he replied 'Whenever I look into the mirror'.

A tough-talking defender of law and order, a workaholic who wants to make the French work more, Sarkozy won Sunday's runoff election against Socialist Segolene Royal because he made the French voters believe he deserved to be president on merit.

After a falling out with his former mentor Jacques Chirac because he supported a rightist rival in the 1995 presidential election, Sarkozy spent seven years in the political wilderness after Chirac was elected.

But a strong showing by right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002, because of law-and-order concerns by a nervous French electorate, prompted Chirac to name Sarkozy interior minister, in an attempt to attract far right-wing voters.

Sarkozy carried out that mission with relish. In a 2005 visit to a suburban ghetto north of Paris, he vowed to rid it of crime by using a high-pressure industrial cleaning machine.

Several months later, during the riots that shook these rundown neighbourhoods throughout the country, he referred to rampaging minority youths as 'scum'.

As a result, he reduced Le Pen's score in the first round of the presidential election to just 10.44 percent of the vote, his lowest score since the first time he ran for president, in 1974, and one million votes fewer than he received in 2002.

However, Sarkozy was also the only politician in France to prescribe the US-style remedy of affirmative action for the inequalities and discrimination in education and employment that led to the three weeks of rioting.

But the trial balloon he floated was rejected nearly universally, and he rarely mentioned the idea on the campaign trail.

Affirmative action is not the only American value that the new French president brings to the office. What may strike the French after he has spent some time in the Elysee Palace are values that are similar to those of the US neo-conservatives.

During a September 2006 visit to Washington, Sarkozy was happy to shake the hand of US President George W. Bush, who is generally reviled in France.

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