Sarkozy prepares his presidency as Socialists weigh future


Paris : French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy left Paris for an undisclosed destination Monday with wife Cecilia and son Louis to rest for two days or three and to reflect on the formation of his government, aides said.

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Three people have been widely cited as likely to be named prime minister under Sarkozy – former education minister Francois Fillon, Labour Minister Jean-Louis Borloo and Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.
Sarkozy will be sworn in French president May 16 and his term will run for five years.
Final results of Sunday's election, as provided by the Interior Ministry, show Sarkozy receiving 53.06 percent of the vote, while Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal received 46.94 percent.

The magnitude of the defeat has sunk the Socialist Party into a crisis ahead of vital legislative elections, set for June 10 and 17.

On Monday, Royal called on her party to "remain united."

"We will work, renovate, re-establish, prepare for the next challenge," she told journalists in front of her Paris headquarters. "We must remain united, we must take time to evaluate things."

The next challenge for the defeated Socialists will be the legislative elections, in which they will try to build up a credible opposition to Sarkozy and the Union for a Popular Movement, to impede their plans to shake up the labour market, enact an income tax ceiling, restrict the right to strike of public employees and impose strict limits on immigration.

Ahead of that crucial vote, signs of cracks in the Socialist Party have begun to appear, with some Royal supporters calling for an alliance between a "renovated" Left, the Greens and the centrists around Francois Bayrou, who finished third in the first round of the election.

A number of prominent left-wing figures, including Green Party European parliamentarian Daniel Cohn-Bendit, put their signatures to an opinion piece published in the daily Liberation that was titled "No, Everything Is Not Lost". It called for the creation of a centre-left alliance similar to the Italian Olive Tree coalition.

Bayrou was set to form a new centrist party later this week, the Democratic Movement, which could form part of the nucleus of a social democratic party that would include a number of middle-of-the road Socialists around Royal.

In the meantime, the fallout from Royal's heavy defeat on Sunday was being felt within the party.

Party head Francois Hollande, who is also Royal's partner, warned on France 2 television that he would "not tolerate" any internal "settling of scores". The legislative elections should enable a "counter-force" to Sarkozy to emerge, he said.

However, Hollande's position at the head of the party seems precarious, and he could pay the price for the unsuccessful campaign waged by Royal and her staff.

Former finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whom Royal defeated in the bitter Socialist presidential primary fight, criticized the "imprecision" of the campaign and said he was available to help the party recover from the setback.