REUTERS/Vincent Kessler (FRANCE)
Francois Hollande won about 52 percent of the vote and defeated President Nicolas Sarkozy in Sunday's presidential runoff, dominated by the eurozone crisis and unemployment, to become the first socialist leaders of France in more than one and a half decade.
"Europe is watching us," Bloomberg quoted Hollande as saying in his victory speech in Tulle Sunday night. "Austerity isn't inevitable. My mission now is to give European construction a growth dimension."
Hollande said many people had been waiting for that moment for many years. "Others, younger, have never known such a time. ... I am proud to be capable to bring about hope again," added the president-elect, who will need to deal with a stagnant economy, growing joblessness and a rising debt.
Sarkozy, in office since 2007, was seen as a president for the wealthy. The French Interior Ministry projected Hollande as leading with 51.6 percent to Sarkozy's 48.4 percent. Sarkozy's defeat comes on the heel of the routing of other European leaders, including in Greece and Italy, during the eurozone economic crisis.
Hollande later addressed supporters in Paris. "I know what many people feel – years and years of wounds, of ruptures, and we have to repair, recover, unite," he was quoted as saying. "That is what we're going to do together."
Sarkozy, who had failed to get endorsements from influential candidates like far right leader Marine Le Pen, accepted defeat. "I carry the entire responsibility for this defeat, and I'm going to say why. I fought for the values of responsibility, and I'm not a man who does not accept his responsibilities," he was quoted as saying. "I'm ready to become a French person amongst French people, and more than ever I have the love for my country deeply ingrained in my heart."
France will now prepare for elections for the lower house of parliament scheduled for next month. How well Hollande is able to deliver will depend on whether he gets majority in the lower house.
U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly called the winning candidate after the results were out and invited him to the White House.