France woke to a new era today after electing Socialist Francois Hollande as president, a leftist pledging to buck Europe’s austerity trend and Nato’s timetable for Afghanistan.
After an appearance before thronging crowds on Paris’ Place de la Bastille in the early hours during which he pledged “to finish with austerity,” Mr Hollande was soon back at work.
He will officially become president on May 15, the date for the handover ceremony that the two campaign teams agreed today.
Mr Hollande has his work cut out to fulfil the hopes his victory has stirred on France’s Left, overjoyed to have one of their own in power for the first time since Socialist Francois Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.
Nicolas Sarkozy is now the latest victim of a wave of voter anger over spending cuts in Europe that has ousted governments and leaders in the past couple of years.
Final results from France’s presidential election show Mr Hollande narrowly defeated Mr Sarkozy with 51.62 % of the vote, or 1.13 million of the 37 million votes cast in yesterday’s election.
Mr Sarkozy, who finished the first round about half-a-million votes behind Mr Hollande, failed in his bid to attract sufficient votes from supporters of far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
The head of the National Front party refused to endorse either candidate and said she would cast a blank vote. In that, she was followed by more than 2 million others, a total far higher than in previous elections.