François Hollande has defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in French presidential election

François Hollande has defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in French presidential election

Left-wing candidate François Hollande has defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in Sunday’s runoff, becoming the first Socialist to win a French presidential election since François Mitterrand in 1988.
 
France’s newly-elected President Francois Hollande (L) celebrates on stage with his companion Valerie Trierweiler after results in the second round vote of the 2012 French presidential elections in Tulle May 6, 2012. France voted in elections on Sunday and Francois Hollande becomes the nation’s first Socialist president in 17 years. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
 
By Steven Erlanger and Nicola Clark 
The New York Times
 
PARIS — François Hollande swept into office on Sunday, becoming the first Socialist to be elected president of France since François Mitterrand left office in 1995.
 
Mr. Hollande’s campaign promised a kinder, gentler, more inclusive France, but his victory over President Nicolas Sarkozy will also be seen as a challenge to the German-dominated policy of economic austerity in the euro zone, which is suffering from recession and record unemployment.
 
French voters may not like the belt-tightening, but both Mr. Hollande and Mr. Sarkozy had promised to balance the budget in the next five years.
 
Domestically, the vote was considered to be a rejection of Mr. Sarkozy and his effort to appeal to the voters of the far right National Front. Mr. Sarkozy is the first incumbent to be ousted since Valéry Giscard d’Estaing lost to Mr. Mitterrand in 1981.
 
With about half the votes counted, preliminary results released by the Interior Ministry shortly after the last polling stations closed at 8 p.m. showed Mr. Hollande had secured about 51 percent of the vote, while Mr. Sarkozy, of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, had about 49 percent. The results were slightly closer than expected.
 
Mr. Sarkozy thanked “the millions of French who voted for me,” but said he accepted “total responsibility” for Sunday’s results.
 
Mr. Hollande will make an early visit to Berlin. Ms. Merkel spent Sunday watching the results of state elections in Schleswig-Holstein, where exit polls indicated that her party was losing a fight to hold on to the state Parliament.
 
With another election coming on May 13 in North Rhine-Westphalia State, Ms. Merkel is not viewed as having much room domestically to compromise on crucial economic issues.
 
Mr. Sarkozy is the latest of a string of European incumbents, from both the left and the right, to lose in a larger popular revolt against budget-cutting and tax increased during a time of recession and high unemployment.
 
Mr. Hollande has said he intends to give “a new direction to Europe,” demanding that a European Union treaty limiting debt be expanded to include measures to produce economic growth.
 

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