Nicolas Sarkozy was officially sworn in as French president on Wednesday, setting out for a drive in which he will undertake a host of tasks to refurbish France.
Sarkozy was declared president after former President Jacques Chirac, who had ruled the country over the past 12 years, left the Elysee Palace.
Before the inauguration, the two leaders held private talks, in which Chirac gave Sarkozy the codes for France's nuclear arsenal.
The 52-year-old Sarkozy was proclaimed president when the head of France's Constitutional Council, Jean-Louis Debre, read out the results of the May 6 presidential election during a ceremony at the Elysee Palace.
He then received the insignia of office in the Elysee's plush Salle des Fetes room and made his inaugural speech to friends, family, and leading politicians.
During the speech, the new president reiterated his proposals to safeguard the environment, bring back the value of the French tradition, protect the country's identity, restore full employment, boost people's living standards, and called on the country to be united.
"The people conferred a mandate on me...I will scrupulously fulfill it," he said.
He will then lay a floral tribute at the tomb of the unknown soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe. Within hours, Sarkozy will fly to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel to show the importance of Franco-German relations.
Sarkozy, representing the ruling right-wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), won the presidential race with over 53 percent of the vote. Royal, of the left-wing Socialist Party, got some 47 percent.
Sarkozy is expected to install the government swiftly in the coming days, with his ally, former social affairs minister Francois Fillon high likely named prime minister.
Born in 1955 in Paris, Sarkozy is a son of a Hungarian immigrant and a French mother. He studied law and became a lawyer after passing the Bar exams. Sarkozy entered politics in 1977 when he was just 22 years old. He first became councilor and then mayor of the town of Neuilly- sur-Seine, in the suburbs of Paris.
He was appointed interior minister by President Jacques Chirac and then finance minister, but was appointed again as interior minister in June 2005, a post he had held until last March. Since November 2004, he has been president of the UMP.
Nicknamed "Ark," Sarkozy is known for his toughness as interior minister, who is responsible for law enforcement.
During the campaigning, Sarkozy has promised labor market flexibility, strict controls on immigration, and called for a return to French traditional values, winning the hearts of right-wing voters, and even parts of ultra right voters.
He advocated a policy of "more pay for more work," garnering support from the low-income class. Without scrapping the 35-hour week, he would allow employers to boost overtime pay by 25 percent, with the extra hours exempt from taxes and social charges.
He has proposed a series of tax cuts, which totals 15 billion euros (about 16.8 billion U.S. dollars) at the start of his term as well as a reduction in income tax and social charges -- worth 70 billion euros (about 78 billion dollars) -- over a two-term presidency.
Furthermore, Sarkozy has vowed to bring down the unemployment rate from the current 8.3 percent to below 5 percent.
The biggest challenges confronting Sarkozy are a sluggish economy and prickly domestic issues.
Over the past several years, France has failed to reduce the high government budget deficit and the accumulation of huge debts, and has been hit by a sluggish economy and high unemployment rate, which have caused outrage from the public toward the government.
Sarkozy has put forward a basket of proposals to stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment, but whether they will work remains uncertain.
He has also advocated strengthening state authority, restoring France's traditional social values, tightening control on immigrants and improving security by forceful means.
On the eye-catching issue of European construction, Sarkozy has to heal the wounds left over from a French rejection of the European Union (EU) treaty in a 2005 referendum.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, how the Sarkozy-ruled France will perform on major international issues remains an interesting issue as the rest of the world awaits the announcement of Sarkozy's foreign policies.
And there is also a big question mark hanging over how Sarkozy will narrow the gap between left and right in a very divided society.