François Hollande’s victory was narrow but undisputed. With 95 percent of the vote counted, official results showed him with 51.6 percent of the vote while Nicolas Sarkozy, of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, had 48.4 percent, The New York Times reports.
Jubilant crowds filled the Place de la Bastille to celebrate Hollande’s victory. He will become France’s first socialist president since Francois Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.
After the result of the elections was clear Hollande admitted that for him, the festivities would have to be short-lived.
“There is a lot of joy and pride but also apprehension at taking on this responsibility at a difficult time for the country and for Europe,” he said.
Hollande thanked Sarkozy for his service to France, but said: “Too many divisions, too many wounds, too many ruptures, too many cuts have separated our fellow citizens from one another. That’s all finished.”
“Europe is watching us. The moment that I was announced president, I am sure in many European countries there was a relief, hope at the idea that at last austerity is no longer inevitable, and my mission is to give to European construction the dream of growth,” Hollande said.
“Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option,” he said.
According to Reuters, Sarkozy admitted defeat within 20 minutes of polls closing on Sunday and told supporters he had wished Hollande good luck in such trying times.
“I bear the full responsibility for this defeat,” Sarkozy said, indicating he would withdraw from frontline politics. “I become a citizen among you,” Sarkozy said.
“François Hollande is the president of the republic, he must be respected,” he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had openly favored fellow conservative Sarkozy, telephoned to congratulate Hollande and invited him to Berlin after his inauguration.
Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrat party suffered a major setback in regional elections on Sunday, scraping a one-point lead over resurgent Social Democrats allied to Mr Hollande, tells The Telegraph.
Elections in Greece have also delivered a hammer blow to the eurozone’s austerity policies after over 60 per cent of the vote went to far-Left and Right-wing parties opposed austerity measures that are a condition of an EU-IMF bail-out and Greek membership of the euro.
It appeared last night that centrist New Democracy and Socialists were denied a combined majority leaving Greece ungovernable as a minority government tries and pass a new raft of austerity measures.
The French and Greek elections were closely watched in European capitals and particularly in Berlin, where Chancellor Merkel has led the drive to cure the euro zone debt and banking crisis with deep budget cuts and caps on future spending.
“How Hollande handles Merkel could make or break his prospects for the next five years,” said François Heisbourg of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. “He has favorable circumstances, but she has domestic politics, too,” he said
The new president is expected to be sworn in on May 15. Hollande will in fact have little time to relax.
On May 18-19 he must travel to the United States for a meeting of the Group of 8 industrialized countries and then a NATO summit meeting in Chicago on May 20-21, where he intends to make good on his promise to pull French combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year.