After winning Sunday's presidential election in France, Socialist François Hollande is set to take over the reins from Nicolas Sarkozy by May 15.
What will be on Hollande's short-term agenda, what happens to Sarkozy and how will Sunday's results affect parliamentary elections in June? CNN's international correspondent in Paris Jim Bitterman weighs in.
Q: Why was there such high voter turnout?
BITTERMANN: One of the things that apparently happened is that Marine Le Pen, the National Front candidate who urged her voters to follow her lead and vote a blank ballot, apparently succeeded because there are more than 2 million blank ballots that were cast Sunday.
Now, normally those votes would have gone to Nicolas Sarkozy, because they are right-wingers who had no place else to go. They would have normally voted for the president. Sarkozy lost by about 1.2 million votes or so. And as a consequence, if he had gotten some of those blank ballots, he very easily might have won - or at least it was possible for him to win.
So, preliminarily, it looks like Marine Le Pen's strategy worked.
Q: What can we expect from the new French president in the immediate future, especially in regards to the European Union debt crisis?
BITTERMANN: There's a busy agenda ahead of Francois Hollande. He's got official duties and some unofficial duties. He's got to get his government together. He's got to name his cabinet. He's going to have to take part in commemorations on Tuesday for V-E Day, marking the end of war in Europe. And then he's said he's flying off to Germany to see leader Angela Merkel. ...
The handover of power takes place on the 15th. He's got G8 meetings coming up on the 18th and 19th in the United States and NATO meetings on the 20th and 21st. So a packed agenda for Hollande.
And in the midst of all this, he has to reassure his voters that he really meant it when he was talking about finding areas to concentrate on growth in the European Union rather than the idea of just austerity. And he repeated that again Sunday night to his followers who gathered by the tens of thousands in the Bastille. ...
So, Hollande has his work cut out for him. And by the way, Sarkozy has not completely disappeared. He's going to participate with Hollande on Tuesday in these V-E commemorations here in Paris. And Sarkozy is also Monday afternoon in a planning session with some of the leaders of his party to try to figure out how the party can capture a majority of seats in the legislative elections which are coming up on June 10.
Q: In terms of the overall French political landscape: As we saw in those televised debates, the campaign got very personal between Hollande and Sarkozy. So is France much more politically divided after this election? What does that mean for parliamentary elections in June?
BITTERMANN: Well, that's going to be a good bellwether of exactly how divided the country is. Hollande says he's going to try to bring people together and that Sarkozy was a divisive force. And in fact a lot of criticism was heaped on Sarkozy's shoulders in the wake of the debate when he took a kind of street fighter approach, accused his opponent of being a liar and a slanderer and things like that which a number of people within his own party felt was just totally unjustified and a little bit over the top.
So there's a lot of sentiment out there that Sarkozy himself was a big factor in these divisions within France. But on the other hand there are pretty divergent political views, including those expressed by Marine Le Pen on the right, but also by Melenchon on the extreme left. The extremist parties got about 30 percent of the vote in the first round of the election. So it's an indication that people out there have got a lot of different points of views and sometimes very extreme points of view.
And when these legislative elections come up, all the same parties that were in there for the first round of the presidential elections will be in there for the legislative elections. And so you'll see some of that come out in some of these local elections as well.