France vote for Sarkozy sets stage for legal changes

[JURIST] The convincing victory of conservative French Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy [campaign website, in French; JURIST news archive] over Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal [campaign website, in French] in the French presidential run-off election Sunday means that the incoming French president will have the chance to implement a series of tough-minded legal reforms he touted during his campaign. Stiffer sentences for criminal offenders and stricter immigration rules, especially on family reunification, will come on the French political agenda in ten days when Sarkozy takes over from current French President Jacques Chirac [official website]. Sarkozy won the run-off with a winning margin of 53.06 percent [official results] on an 85% voter turnout. The New York Times has more.

The son of a Hungarian refugee who worked his way up through the political ranks, Sarkozy gained widespread attention and in some quarters notoriety with his firm response to the rioting that rocked the immigrant-dominated Paris suburbs [JURIST news archive] in late 2005. As Interior Minister, Sarkozy also supported expelling immigrants who do not make efforts to integrate and seek work [JURIST report], rooting out juvenile delinquency by depriving "negligent" parents of some state support [JURIST report], banning anyone other than professional reporters from filming or broadcasting acts of violence [JURIST report], deporting radical Muslim clerics [JURIST report], and generally toughening France's anti-terror laws [JURIST report]. Sarkozy also supports adopting a limited version of the controversial European constitution [JURIST report] rejected by French voters in 2005.

Last fall top members of the French judiciary asked Chirac to rein in Sarkozy [JURIST report] after he made allegedly derogatory comments about the courts in the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, a flashpoint for last year's riots, saying "I would like to know how we are supposed to prevent a criminal from offending again if we do not have the courage to put them in prison." Judge Guy Canivet, head of the Cour de Cassation [official website, in French], and Renaud Chazal de Mauriac, head of the Paris Court of Appeal, urged Chirac to "expose the seriousness of these repeated attacks on the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution." The High Council of the Magistrature [official website] had previously written to Chirac criticizing other incendiary remarks by the Sarkozy. Chirac did not censure Sarkozy publicly but did praise the judiciary, emphasizing the importance of "high standards regarding the independence of judges."

 

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