Allister Heath

France’s only hope for reform triumphs

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It is now almost certain that Nicolas Sarkozy has been elected France’s next president, in a stunning victory for the centre-right candidate. This is great news for all of us who believe that France must urgently reform if it is to reverse years of relative decline and extricate itself from the dark pessimism which it has being gripped by for far too long. Sarko is far from perfect and displays worrying anti-capitalist and protectionist tendencies; but he was France’s only hope and should now be given the benefit of the doubt.

The latest estimates from exit polls published on the website of Le Soir, the Belgium newspaper, are that Sarko has grabbed between 53% and 56% of the vote, against 47%-44% for Segolene Royal, the socialist candidate. La Libre Belgique, another Belgian paper, says he got more than 53% of the vote. It seems that a final outcome of 53%-47% or, at worst for Sarko, 52%-48% -- is most likely.

As James Forsyth explains in the previous post, French exits polls are remarkably accurate and with such numbers there is almost no chance of a last minute upset. As of 5pm local time, 75.11% of the French electorate had already voted, the strongest turnout since at least 1965, according to the French Ministry of the Interior.

For the French left, which always had grave doubts about the wisdom of selecting the glamorous but aloof Ségo, this is a horrendous blow and promises months of recriminations, infighting and navel-grazing. But for those who realise that France must grow up and change, it is time to pop the champagne corks.