Truly extraordinary scenes at the Salle Gaveau in the eighth arrondissement of Paris tonight. Shortly after the official exit polls announcing Sarko’s victory, thousands of his supporters sang the Marseillaise, with thousands more joining in from outside. After a long ride through Paris, his Renault Limousine surrounded by least 20 media motorcycles, Sarko arrived at the UMP HQ at about 8:20 local time. He started his victory speech about 10 minutes later; his address lasted about 10 minutes and was followed by another session of the French national anthem, sung by an exuberant and deeply emotional crowd.
This is an “exceptional moment in the life of a man”, Sarko said. He also reached out to the 47% of the electorate who voted Socialist today. “I respect Mme Royal and her ideas. A president must love all the French. I will be the President of all the French”.
Sarko’s speech was deliberately built around both right-wing and left-wing themes. On the one hand, a call for the return of “work, authority, morality, respect… and the end of French self-hatred”. On the other, lots about helping the weak and why nobody should be left behind, a pledge to help Africa, to fight for women’s rights around the world and much else.
France’s president-elect (he takes over formally in 10 days’ time) also sent a clear message to the rest of Europe. He declared himself a life-long European, expressing his belief in European construction. “Tonight, France is back in Europe”, he said. But he appealed to other European leaders for them to provide “more protection” for the peoples of Europe – in other words, greater protectionism, the absence of which he claims to be the reason why so many Europeans are turning away from the EU (in reality, the fact that Europe is failing economically and is deeply dysfunctional and anti-democratic may be the reason why so many are angry).
Sarko then turned to “our American friends” – merely calling them that is a remarkable statement in today’s France. He said that America can count on France’s friendship and that the French will always be at America’s side when it is needed, but that – crucially — friends can sometimes differ. He focused on climate change, where he highlighted his difference with America. “France will make the struggle against climate change its main fight”, he said.
An interesting aside, according to French TV: 40% of François Bayrou’s first round votes went to Sarko, exactly the same share as went to Ségo, with the rest abstaining Around 63% of Le Pen’s vote voted for Sarko, with only a small minority voting for Ségo and the remainder refusing to vote or spoiling their ballots.
With many thousands of Sarko supporters beginning to mass at the Place Concorde to celebrate their man’s victory, the night has barely begun in France.