AP: Sarkozy 'Misstep' Could Spark Violence

French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his political party are pretty popular these days. He's only enjoying a landslide parliamentary election a month after he routed Socialist Segolene Royal to gain the keys to the Élysée Palace.

But the way you read it in the Associated Press, it almost sounds as if Sarkozy is a latter day Robespierre, at least in that there's some Reign of Terror just waiting to break out all over the Fifth Republic. [Emphasis mine]

PARIS -- President Nicolas Sarkozy appears to have won a mandate for change after his party swept first-round parliamentary elections, and he is picking up speed in his plans to overhaul France's welfare state. But rivals say he should watch out.


A major misstep, critics warn, and the streets again could explode in anger.

Sarkozy's conservative UMP party dominated Sunday's vote, the opposition Socialists fared poorly and fringe parties all but disappeared _ leaving the UMP well-placed to expand its majority in the National Assembly in Sunday's decisive second-round vote.

Sarkozy, well aware of the risk of resistance to his plans, has reached out to the people most threatened by them: negotiating with unions, bringing a leading Socialist into his government and naming a woman of North African descent as justice minister. On Monday, he bowed to labor union demands and scrapped longer hours for teachers.

So far, the strategy appears to be working. Anti-Sarkozy protests after last month's elections left hundreds of cars burned nationwide but quickly fizzled, and no other major resistance has been mounted.

The question is what happens when Sarkozy tackles the more painful part of his agenda: university reforms, less-protective labor laws, squeezing transport workers' ability to strike, new rules for immigrants.

Europe Wire Services/Media Companies Associated Press