François Hollande has become the new President of France.
In a powerful speech to the country he thanked everyone who voted and called the 6th of May a new beginning.
He pledged that everyone in France will be treated equally and said he will be the leader to unite the entire country and said his mission is to change the public, France and beyond.
He was addressing his supporters in the quiet, rural French town of Tulle in Correze, for which he is the member of parliament.
“I am sure that in other European countries, this has been a relief, a hope, that at last the idea of ‘austerity’ is not an inevitability,” he told them. “That mission now falls to me…and it is what I will tell our European partners, starting with Germany”
An official exit poll, published at exactly 20:00 local time, credited Hollande with 52.5% of the vote, with Sarkozy on 47.5%.
Hollande will become France’s first socialist president since François Mitterand, who left office 17 years ago. Sarkozy meanwhile becomes the first president to be voted out after just one term since Valérie Giscard d’Estaing was beaten by Mitterand in 1981.
The outgoing president was quick to concede defeat. At his campaign headquarters in Paris barely 20 minutes after the exit poll was issued, he told his supporters that he had already telephoned Hollande to wish him luck.
“François Hollande is the President of France and he must be respected,” he said, “I bear the full responsibility for this defeat.”
Jubilant socialist supporters celebrated outside their party headquarters in Paris’ Bastille square.
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Sarkozy will be the 11th eurozone leader to be swept away by economic crisis after the majority of voters decided to choose a President with ethical and social issues at heart.
A wide margin of victory would give Hollande greater authority in pressing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to accept a shift in Europe’s economic policy towards fostering growth and easing austerity that has sparked protests in southern Europe.
Sarkozy blames the economic downtown for his defeat. His supporters have little faith that Hollande will do better than the former President.
The 55-year-old who has been in office since 2007, had promised to reduce France’s immigrant population.
It is only the second time an incumbent president has failed to be re-elected since the start of France Fifth Republic in 1958.
He said he will not lead his party in June’s elections.
The new President has vowed to rework a deal on government debt in member countries.
The socialist candidate has promised to raise taxes on people earning more than 1m euros a year.
Sarkozy has until May 15 to hand over the keys to the presidential residence, the Elysée.