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Celebrations, Protests Greet Sarkozy Victory in France

07 May 2007

French voters celebrated Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential election victory well into the night, as thousands of people gathered in central Paris, for a party sponsored by Mr. Sarkozy. But there were also protests in some parts of France, with nearly 400 cars burned. Anita Elash reports for VOA.

The Place de Concorde in central Paris is usually filled with tourists. Sunday night, it was teaming with fans of French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy, who had invited voters to a victory rock concert. Thirty-thousand people came. Most of them were young, and most were optimistic about Mr. Sarkozy's victory.

A lot of young people support Nicolas Sarkozy, said one student from Paris. He said students think he can make the changes France needs.

But there were also anti-Sarkozy protests in some parts of the country. Nearly 400 cars were reported burned in cities across France.

But police said there was little violence in the places where it had been most feared - the multi-ethnic neighborhoods where Mr. Sarkozy is blamed for inflaming tensions between the police and youth. Instead, police blamed the incidents mostly on right and left-wing extremists.

Mr. Sarkozy, a conservative, won 53-percent of the vote. That gave him a comfortable majority over his opponent, socialist Segolene Royal, and a strong mandate to pursue the economic reforms he has proposed. They include changes to France's generous unemployment benefit and to standard work contracts that protect worker security.

One of his proposed measures would ensure a minimum train service. That would stop rail workers from shutting down the country to protest his reforms. Mr. Sarkozy is taking a few days off before he takes office on May 16.

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