Nicolas Sarkozy officially became France’s president at 11am local time.
He has been perceived to be bad news for the Arab world: for the region, and for Arabs living in France.
Ever since he brutally surpressed riots across France 18 months ago, calling the young Arab demonstrators ‘scum’, he has been seen as an enemy of France’s Arabs.
And promises to move France closer than ever before to America and Israel have worried Arabs in the region.
But he now seems to be about to pick Bernard Kouchner to be his foreign minister. Kouchner is a maverick left-winger and one of the country’s most popular politicians.
Socialists are angry at the appointment, saying it is an attempt to divide their party – which it probably is. But it also acknowledges that while France wants many many changes domestically, they are proud of their defiant independent stance on the world stage. Picking Kouchner seems like Sarkozy’s way of saying he’ll keep his hands off foreign policy – for now, at least.
But don’t bet on this being a long-term thing: “He’s capable of storming out of the job. We don’t know whether it will last,” said political analyst Henri Rey. “There is indeed a risk that the contract will be a short-term one, that he won’t accept certain compromises.”
Kouchner was one of the few French politicians to speak out in favour of the invasion of Iraq. He co-founded Medcins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders), and he has served as UN Governor of Kosovo.