With François Hollande's triumph in the French elections this past weekend, Nicolas Sarkozy's five-year reign as president comes to an end.
The notoriously charismatic centre-right leader, nicknamed "l’Americain" for his brash behaviour and militant health regimen, provided much fodder for the international press. If it wasn't his high-profile marriage to model and singer Carla Bruni, it was his outrageous public statements or his prickly relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Here's a look at Sarkozy's eventful time in office.
Upon winning the presidency in May 2007, Sarkozy told the French public: "The French have chosen to break with the ideas, habits and behaviour of the past. I will restore the value of work, authority, merit and respect for the nation." Proving that he was willing to create an inclusive cabinet, Sarkozy appointed noted prominent leftist (and founder of Médecins Sans Frontières) Bernhard Kouchner as foreign minister and Rachida Dati, a woman born in northern Africa, as justice minister.
In 1999, Libyan authorities detained a group of 23 Bulgarian nurses, medics and doctors in Benghazi, accusing them of injecting Libyan children with HIV. Over the next few years, the detainees would be subjected to torture, numerous show trials and threats of the death penalty. On July 22, 2007, Sarkozy sent his then-wife Cecilia to help with the negotiations, and two days later, the hostages were released. It was later determined that the French president had signed a deal with Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi that included the sale of anti-missile tanks.
Sarkozy met Carla Bruni, international model and singer-songwriter, in November 2007, and their love affair became the preoccupation of the French media. In February 2008, they were secretly married at the Palace Élysée. It is his third marriage, and her first. In October 2011, Bruni gave birth to the couple's first child, a girl named Giulia.
In July 2008, a reporter for the newspaper Le Parisien captured an uncomfortable exchange between Sarkozy and a peevish citizen during a meet-and-greet at the Paris International Agricultural Fair. After the man voiced his distaste for the French president, Sarkozy responded, "Casse-toi, pauv’con” – which in English roughly translates as, "Then get lost, you damn fool." The outburst soon went viral, showing up on T-shirts and in talk-show monologues.
In 2009, the French president claimed to have been one of the first people to bring down the Berlin Wall after the fall of communism. But on the date he was alleged to have been in Berlin – Nov. 9, 1989 – he was actually in Paris. This failed act of revisionism led to widespread satire, including "Sarkozy Was There," a viral campaign that mockingly superimposed his face onto photos of great moments in history.
France and Germany are the economic titans of the European Union, and as such, the EU looked largely to Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to solve the region's currency crisis. Their personalities, however, couldn't be more different: he is seen as brash and impulsive, with a taste for the luxury life, she as thoughtful and cautious with a more modest lifestyle. "Merkozy" seemed like an unlikely political marriage, but despite some tension, they managed to agree on a cost-cutting program for the EU's most debt-ridden countries. Alas, the new French president has threatened to roll back the two leaders' austerity measures.
With personal approval ratings dropping at home, Sarkozy took a more active approach to foreign policy in 2011 – and the most prominent sign of this was his support of the rebels in the Libyan chapter of the Arab Spring. Only four years after signing a trade deal with Gadhafi, Sarkozy led the charge to have the Libyan leader removed, first by calling for his ouster and then by helping co-ordinate the NATO operation that helped revolutionaries bring Gadhafi down.