Interview with Marina Arzakanyan

Marina Arzakanyan, an analyst from the World History Institute, spoke to Russia Today about the French Presidential election and the likely top issues of Mr Sarkozy's Presidency.

Russia Today: Mr Sarkozy is the winner, as expected. What kind of changes will we see with him as a President of France?

Marina Arzakanyan:Nicolas Sarkozy has won. Now France has a new President and certainly there are changes coming. First of all I have to mention that a change of generation of politics has happened in France, perhaps a bit later than in other European countries, and 75-year-old Jacques Chirac was replaced by 52-year-old energetic Nicolas Sarkozy. What is that going to mean for France? I have to emphasise that the power was received by the representative of the same party which has ruled in France for a long time. But certainly there will be changes, first of all as Nicolas Sarkozy is a hard man, a tough man by nature. I suppose changes will happen both in internal and external policy. Mr Sarkozy will probably begin with internal policy and resolve some issues connected with immigrants in France, which is urgent now, and some social problems that definitely need to be resolved. Anyway, I think it is premature to give a prognosis. We are just to wait for the changes which will probably take place in the nearest future.

RT: Will Mr Sarkozy be able to unite the Left and the Right in the divided France? So far we have seen the very divisive election.

M.A.: Certainly the elections were rather tough. The left were following their leader, Segolene Royal, and the right followed Nicolas Sarkozy. For France this division into left ones and right ones is traditional and it has been lasting for a long period of time. Will the President be able to change the situation, will he be able to attract the left forces to his side? Probably that is not his aim. His task will be to present himself as the uniter of the nation, as the representative of the whole nation. Maybe he will try to convince those left electors who voted for Segolene Royal of the rightness of the policy he is going to follow. And let's not forget that during the first round the centrists have rolled up 18%. Probably Nicolas Sarkozy will try to attract the attention of those electors as well. If he manages to do it, he will prove to the left ones that he is not that bad after all.

RT: What do you see to be top of Mr Sarkozy's agenda?

M.A.:I have to mention once again that both Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal spoke mainly of the internal policy in their pre-election campaign. Many French people believe that the internal policy is the main thing one can win the Presidential campaign on. So the external policy has been in a shadow. However, France is an open country. France is the country which strikes the keynote for the EU. Certainly the priorities of the external policy will also come to the front soon. What will they be like? First of all, none of the large European countries can avoid a relationship with the U.S. and NATO. Mr Sarkozy has been known as an Atlanticist, but during the last months of his election campaign he decided not to accentuate his sympathy for the U.S. Probably this problem will come up again. It is quite possible that Nicolas Sarkozy, unlike Jacques Chirac, will change his attitude towards the U.S., and France will have some changes happening in this relationship. Secondly, France can't go away from the European Union. Together with Germany it strikes the keynote for the EU, and Nicolas Sarkozy will speak of strengthening the connections with the countries of the EU. He stands against the enlargement of the European Union. Nicolas Sarkozy supposes that the EU constitution, which French citizens rejected in 2005, has to be revised and re-written. Certainly this issue will be on agenda. The next thing that cannot be avoided is the relationship with Russia. It will continue to be built and we will see soon how it will happen. The next issue traditional for France is human rights which, I believe, will be definitely present on his agenda. These are the top priorities. I suppose the situation in the Middle East and in Africa, which are also traditional for France, to some extent, will be present as well.

RT: Now, for the viewers who may not be familiar with the French Presidential election system, let's talk about the change of power there. What is the timetable for that?

M.A.: The real change of power will take place in ten days. On May 17 President Jacques Chirac who has ruled in France for twelve years will divest himself of authority and give it over to his successor Nicolas Sarkozy. But let's not forget that in a month's time France is going to face Parliamentary elections which will also show alignment of political forces in France. It will show the National Assembly which Mr Sarkozy will get. So let's wait for that.

RT: What role have personalities played in this election?

M.A.: Certainly we should talk about personalities. The Presidential campaign is first of all a fight of personalities. This year in France it was a unique one for this country, as a man and a woman were having a struggle. France has never experienced that before. Having a woman as a Presidential candidate has happened in France for the first time. A hard young man, a man who was known as a conservative – that is one personality, one image. And a lady, not a soft lady by the way, who has also shown her competence during the Presidential campaign. In spite of the fact that she is a mother of four children, she proved that she was just, equally as a man, able to fight for the highest position in the country. Of course the personalities did play a role. However I would like to mention that the results, which we have just learned, justify the fact that probably and more than likely the choice of the French citizens was not a choice between a man and a woman. The results have shown that it is still the choice between the left ones and the right ones.