Francois Hollande was elected France’s first Socialist President in nearly two decades on Sunday, dealing a humiliating defeat to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and shaking up European politics.
The result will have major implications for Europe as it struggles to emerge from a financial crisis and for France, the eurozone’s second-largest economy and a nuclear-armed permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Hollande won the vote with about 52%, according to several estimates from polling firms based on ballot samples, becoming France’s first Socialist President since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995.
Sarkozy quickly conceded defeat and signaled that he intends to step back from frontline politics.
In his victory speech, Hollande thanked his supporters for electing him President and promised to be a leader to unite the whole country.
Hollande warned fellow European leaders that he would push ahead with his vow to refocus EU fiscal efforts from austerity to growth.
“I am sure that when the result was announced, in many European countries there was relief, hope and the notion that finally austerity can no longer be the only option,” Hollande said.
“And this is the mission that is now mine - to give the European project a dimension of growth, employment, prosperity, in short, a future,” he said.
“This is what I will say as soon as possible to our European partners and first of all to Germany, in the name of the friendship that links us and in the name of our shared responsibility.”
“We are not just any country on the planet, just any nation in the world, we are France.”
The French vote coincides with an election in Greece, where exit polls showed the country’s two main parties suffering big losses for landing the country in its bleak economic state.
Hollande is expected to be sworn in by May 15 and after seeing Merkel will quickly set off for a series of international meetings, including a G8 summit in the US on 18-19 May and NATO gathering in Chicago on 20-21.
Source: Agencies; Photo: AFP