Is France about to exchange the fake revolution of May 1968 for a sham counter-revolution this year, or have the French given Nicolas Sarkozy a mandate for real change to modernize their country? Why has Sarkozy won election as France’s president, and what are the likely consequences of his victory for France, Europe, and the world?
Above all, Sarkozy won because, while some who voted for him may have feared that he was “too much” in terms of personality, many more believed that Ségolène Royal was simply “too little” in terms of gravitas – an impression more confirmed than dissipated by their one face-to-face debate. Royal’s failure, despite her energy and determination, was not because she is a woman, but in spite of it.
In 1968, after ten years of Charles de Gaulle, and in the midst of a period of strong growth and full employment, the French were bored. Today, after 12 years of Jacques Chirac and 14 years of François Mitterrand, with a growth rate lower than most of Europe and a level of debt and unemployment higher than most, France is worried about decline and ripe for reform.
What Sarkozy understood better than anyone is that, 39 years after May 1968, France is in the mood for work, not love.