I have to say that I am surprised by the results. In the back of my mind, I thought Bayrou's first round voters would swing towards Royal and there would be little turn-out by Le Pen's. I am not sure of the exact demographics, but it would appear that enough of them did turn out and swung it Sarko's way.
Now, the new president has chosen to claim a mandate.
"The French people have called for change. I will carry out that change, because that's the mandate I have received from the French people."
Before we get carried away here, the new leader must maintain support in the legislature to be most effective. Those elections are in June. So celebrating too long is not a viable option. Sarkozy cannot afford allow the left coalition to overtake the right, if he really expects to have a chance of making any real meaningful change.
If the French people vote the same way and give support to the new direction, I look for a long and tough battle towards reform, anyway. With the left being relegated to being the opposition, their voice would be heard, but their cries of disagreement would not necessarily be considered. If that turns out to be the case, I would expect to see more protests than under the Chirac government. That will be their only hope.
In the meantime, many are now taking a breath of collective relief that Royal didn't win. Not only do many Brits and Americans do so, but so does 53% of the French citizenry. In the end, it would appear that more people thought the nation needed to change directions, both at home and on the world stage.
From what I see, it's relatively simple. A vote for change? Yes. A mandate? We''ll have to wait for June 10 to answer that one.