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France's new president

Sarkozy bows out with grace after hard-fought election campaign

Reuters/Philippe Wojazer
Text by: Tony Cross
4 min

Outgoing French president Nicolas Sarkozy wished his successor, Socialist François Hollande, good luck at the last cabinet meeting of his right-wing government Wednesday. Sarkozy is to withdraw from active politics after Sunday’s election defeat, according to his collaborators.

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Sarkozy’s opponents have paid tribute to his commitment to a smooth transfer of power, after a sometimes bitter election campaign.

“Nicolas Sarkozy fought a tough campaign, he has chosen a dignified exit,” commented leading Socialist Pierre Moscovici, who is organising the handover from Hollande’s side.

After inviting Hollande to be at his side at the VE Day ceremony on Tuesday, Sarkozy wished him “good luck” at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting and told his ministers not to be sad because “when democracy is working well there is no reason to be sad”.

They gave him a standing ovation, according to reports of the meeting.

Sarkozy will not play an active role in politics, his Interior Minister Claude Guéant told RTL radio Wednesday, confirming the words of his communications adviser Franck Louvrier, who has said that he will return to practise in his lawyer’s firm after a break with his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and their baby daughter, Giulia.

Hollande for his part was due to meet European Council president Herman Van Rompuy on Wednesday afternoon and Euro Group president Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday amid heated debate on his plan to renegotiate the euro stability pact.

Meanwhile, the parties are preparing for June’s general election.

“The political battle existed and it will carry on during the legislatives,” Moscovici told Le Monde newspaper.

Although he and several other Socialist leaders wanted not to stand a candidate against Modem leader François Bayrou, who publicly declared he would vote Hollande last Sunday, the party will oppose him in his parliamentary constituency.

Party boss Martine Aubry said Wednesday that there is a good chance of second-round electoral agreements with other parties in 55 of the country’s 570 constituencies.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who declared that her Front National (FN) was neither on the right nor the left during the campaign, said that she was not opposed to “understandings” with candidates from Sarkozy’s UMP on an individual basis.

She denied that the party has a blacklist of UMP members who it accuses of wanting to back Socialist candidates against FN ones, as Bruno Gollnisch, who stood against her for the front's leadership last year, said on Tuesday. Le Pen said that Gollnisch had denied using the word in a call to her.

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