Olmert congratulates French people on election of Nicolas Sarkozy
Socialist Royal concedes defeat in presidential race; TV forecasts give conservative Sarkozy roughly 53 percent of the vote.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert congratulated the French people on Sunday for the election of Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy as their next president.
Olmert expressed his confidence that Israel's relations with France will strengthen during Sarkozy's term in office.
"I am convinced that cooperation between us will be fruitful and that together we will be able to advance diplomatic activity and peace in our region," the prime minister wrote.
Olmert and Sarkozy met during the prime minister's recent visit to France. The meeting was termed positive and constructive.
Sarkozy, the reform-minded son of a Hungarian immigrant, was elected French president Sunday, winning a clear mandate to reinvigorate a sluggish France by overhauling a restrictive economic system many believe can no longer thrive in an age of globalization.
Sarkozy's convincing victory over Socialist Segolene Royal - by 53.06 percent to 46.94 percent, according to final results released early Monda - promised to chart a new course for France: Sarkozy is friendly toward the United States, has staked out a tough stance against crime and on immigration, and seems more sincere in his quest for free markets than any leader France has had in generations.
"The people of France have chosen change," Sarkozy said in a victory speech. The charismatic but divisive figure pledged to be president of all the French.
Royal conceded defeat following the publication of forecasted results, and wished Sarkozy well.
"Universal suffrage has spoken. I wish the next president of the Republic the best in accomplishing his mission in the service of all the French people," she told supporters in Paris.
Across France, polling stations opened at 8 A.M. As of 5 P.M., turnout already reached 75 percent in mainland France - the highest rate for a second round in four decades, the Interior Ministry said.
Both Sarkozy, who says he had to fight harder because of his foreign roots, and Royal, a mother of four who says she had to overcome sexism, are originals in French politics and energized an electorate craving new direction. Turnout in the April 22 first-round vote was an exceptional 84 percent.
The race marked a generational shift, because a 50-something will replace 74-year-old Jacques Chirac, in office for 12 years. But Sarkozy and Royal, nicknamed Sarko and Sego, have radically different formulas for how to revive France's sluggish economy, reverse its declining clout in world affairs and improve the lives of the impoverished residents of housing projects where largely minority youth rioted in 2005.
Sarkozy, 52, says France's 35-hour work week is absurd, and he wants to make overtime pay tax-free to encourage people to work more. A former interior minister, Sarkozy cracked down on drunk driving, crime and illegal immigration, and he promises tougher sentencing for repeat offenders if he wins.
He is an admirer of the United States who has borrowed from some American policy ideas. Tough-talking and blunt, he won no fans in France's housing projects when he called young delinquents "scum."
At a polling station near Paris' Champs-Elysees, Anne Combemale said she voted for Sarkozy because of his market-oriented economic platform.
He has the willpower to change France, said Combemale, 43, who is unemployed.
Police were quietly keeping watch for possible unrest Sunday night in France's poor, predominantly immigrant neighborhoods in the wake of Sarkozy's election. Authorities in the Seine-Saint-Denis region northeast of Paris - the epicenter of the 2005 rioting - refused officers' requests for days off Sunday, one official said.
Royal, 53, is a former environment minister who believes France must keep its welfare protections strong. She wants to raise the minimum wage, create 500,000 state-funded starter jobs for youths and build 120,000 subsidized housing units a year. On the campaign trail, she often talked about her four children, and she appealed to women to vote for her because she is female.
Bechir Chakroun, a 26-year-old who works in marketing, said he liked Royal's commitment to helping the poor.
"She represents change, I want to see what a woman can do," he said.
Royal is strong on the environment and schools but has made a series of foreign policy gaffes - suggesting, for instance, that the Canadian province of Quebec deserved independence.
This week, as poll numbers suggested Royal's chances were slim, she made a last-ditch effort to rip into Sarkozy, warning of the chance for new riots if he is elected and calling him a dangerous choice for France.
Sarkozy retorted in an interview published in Le Parisien newspaper's Web site: "I think that in the history of the Republic, we have never heard such violent or threatening comments."
On Saturday, the candidates stayed out of the public eye because French election rules forbid campaigning a day before the race. No polls or interviews were published Saturday.