Socialist Francois Hollande wins French presidency

 

Francois Hollande addressed thousands of jubilant supporters in Paris

French socialist Francois Hollande has won a clear victory in the country's presidential election.

Mr Hollande - who polled just under 52% of votes in Sunday's run-off - spoke of his pride at becoming president.

Admitting defeat, centre-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy wished "good luck" to Mr Hollande.

Analysts say the vote has wide implications for the whole eurozone. Mr Hollande has vowed to rework a deal on government debt in member countries.

Shortly after polls closed at 20:00 (18:00 GMT), French media published projections based on partial results giving Mr Hollande a lead of almost four points. Turnout was about 80%.

At the scene

The excitement has been building for two weeks, it was mixed with relief and perhaps some disbelief when the first estimate was broadcast. They have waited 17 years for a Socialist president.

More than 350 polls published since the beginning of this campaign said he would win - still they cannot quite believe it. President Hollande: "It still takes some getting used to," said Senator Helene Conway-Mouret. "A year ago you would never have dreamed it."

A teacher and a lifelong Socialist was standing next to me as the result came in - he wept. "It's an incredible moment," he said. "Not just for the Socialist Party but for France, for Europe. "

In over 30 years in politics Mr Hollande has never served as a minister. For much of his tenure as the party's first secretary from 1997 to 2008 he was seen as a consensus manager - a listener more than a visionary. Now he must lead, making tough choices to put France on the path to recovery.

Jubilant Hollande supporters gathered on Place de la Bastille in Paris - a traditional rallying point of the Left - to celebrate.

People drank champagne and chanted: "Sarko, it's over!"

Mr Hollande - the first Socialist to win the French presidency since Francois Mitterrand in the 1980s - gave his victory speech in his stronghold of Tulle in central France.

He said he was "proud to have been capable of giving people hope again".

He said he would push ahead with his pledge to refocus EU fiscal efforts from austerity to "growth".

"Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option," he said.

After his speech in Tulle, Mr Hollande headed to Brive airport on his way to Paris to address supporters at Place de la Bastille. His voice hoarse, he spoke of his pride at taking over the mantle of the presidency 31 years almost to the day since Socialist predecessor Francois Mitterrand was elected.

"I am the president of the youth of France," he told the assembled crowd of tens of thousands of supporters, emphasising his "pride at being president of all the republic's citizens". "You are a movement that is rising up throughout Europe," he said.

Mr Hollande has called for a renegotiation of a hard-won European treaty on budget discipline championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Sarkozy.

Mr Hollande's campaign director, Pierre Moscovici, told AFP news agency that Mrs Merkel had congratulated the president-elect by phone, and that the two had agreed to work together on "a strong Franco-German relationship in the interest of Europe".

Mrs Merkel later said she had invited Mr Hollande to come to Berlin soon, AFP reported.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has also called Mr Hollande to congratulate him.

Nicolas Sarkozy says Francois Hollande must be respected as the new president

'Respect'

Mr Hollande capitalised on France's economic woes and President Sarkozy's unpopularity.

The Socialist candidate has promised to raise taxes on big corporations and people earning more than 1m euros a year.

He wants to raise the minimum wage, hire 60,000 more teachers and lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some workers.

In his concession speech, Mr Sarkozy told supporters: "Francois Hollande is the president of France and he must be respected."

The outgoing president said he was "taking responsibility for defeat".

Hollande supporters in Lyon (6 May 2012)

RESULTS (After 99% of vote)

Source: Interior Ministry

Share

Vote

F. Hollande

51.7%

N. Sarkozy

48.3%

Turnout

81%

Hinting about his future, he said: "My place will no longer be the same. My involvement in the life of my country will now be different."

During the campaign, he had said he would leave politics if he lost the election.

Mr Sarkozy, who has been in office since 2007, had promised to reduce France's large budget deficit through spending cuts.

He is the latest European leader to be voted out of office amid widespread voter anger at austerity measures triggered by the eurozone debt crisis.

In Greece's parliamentary election on Sunday, voters turned against the two main parties which supported tough budget cuts.

It is only the second time that an incumbent French president has failed to win re-election since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

The last was Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who lost to Mr Mitterrand in 1981.

Mr Hollande is expected to be inaugurated later this month. A parliamentary election is due in June.

 

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Hollande in power

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 292.

    Not only a breath of fresh air for France, but for the whole EU. Really hope Mr Hollande can live up to expectations. Good luck.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 146.

    Hopefully this will break the Franco/German pact with regard to the direction of the Eurozone. Austerity alone won't fix Europe's economic woes. There needs to be growth alongside the belt tightening. The stock markets will be watching Francois Hollande very closely in the coming months

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 121.

    All I care about is how rich this country will become as a result of this election. The French economy was actually being competently run before this. Now France thinks the answer is to tax the rich into oblivion... just watch them all disperse across Europe as a result... fine by me. Bring your businesses over too... we have amongst the lowest corporation tax in Europe.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 48.

    Whether or not you agree with socialism or the individual mandates of the presidential candidates, I'm just pleased that the French had a legitimate choice to make and that a large majority of those who could vote did, in fact, feel that it was worthwhile. Regardless of the result, that's a big victory for democracy.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 33.

    Great news ! Good luck to Hollande and all of France. Hopefully we will continue to see countries kick out the governments who sat back and allowed the global economic meltdown to happen. Sarkozy was a failure. He was too much into self promotion and being in the media. He should have focused on his job !

 

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