France Commits Suicide
(France24) Left-wing candidate François Hollande has defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in Sunday’s runoff, exit polls say, becoming the first Socialist to win a presidential election since François Mitterrand in 1988.
François Hollande has won France’s presidential election, giving the country its first Socialist president in almost two decades, exit polls showed Sunday.
According to Ipsos polling institute, the left-wing candidate took 51.9% of the vote to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’s 48.1%.
Celebrations are underway at the iconic Place de la Bastille in central Paris, the same spot where the last Socialist to win a presidential election, François Mitterrand, celebrated his victory back in 1981.
Hollande, who voted on Sunday in the central Corrèze region, which he represents in the French parliament, was considered the frontrunner throughout the campaign, at times leading his rival by as much as 10% in opinion polls.
He finished ahead in the first round on April 22, claiming 28.63% of votes cast against Sarkozy’s 27.18%.
In a twin blow to Sarkozy between the two rounds, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist François Bayrou, who gathered around 18% and 9% respectively, both denied the incumbent an endorsement. Bayrou told supporters his personal vote would go to Hollande, while Le Pen said she would cast a blank vote.
At 79.9%, according to Ipsos, voter turnout was strong, though slightly lower than the figure reached in 2007.
Hollande will be sworn in as France’s president on May 14 or 15.
Sunday’s election capped a stunning comeback for Hollande, whose career appeared to be all but over after he left the leadership of the Socialist Party in 2008.
It also marked the end of a year-long campaign for the veteran politician, who won his party’s internal primaries in October of last year, establishing himself from the start as a moderate left-winger with the best chances of appealing to centrists and beating Sarkozy.
Hollande has promised to boost France’s public education system by 60,000 employees and reduce the retirement age from 62 to 60 for people who have completed a minimum 41 years of work.
He also campaigned on a pledge to give all foreigners the right to vote in local elections in line with laws already in place for EU citizens living in France. The Socialist has said he will balance the country’s budget by 2017.
Socialists return to power
Sarkozy became the only the second French president to fail to claim a second mandate since Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was swept out of office in 1981.
It was also the first time the Socialist Party triumphed in a presidential election since Mitterrand’s re-election in 1988.
France’s Socialists will be hoping to use the vote’s momentum to win back a majority in parliament in elections this June.
Europe’s ongoing debt crisis was likely to take priority in the first weeks of Hollande’s mandate, and his camp showed it would not loose much time celebrating.
Hollande was planning to call German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday evening, Socialist MP Jean-Marc Ayrault told the media earlier in the day. Ayrault, who is also a close advisor and aspiring prime minister to the presumed president-elect added that Hollande would quickly organize a trip to Berlin.
Merkel, who has championed strict austerity in Europe, backed Sarkozy in the elections.
“He will talk with the German chancellor because in that exchange lies the key to Europe’s recovery, redirecting Europe towards growth, competitiveness and protection,” Ayrault said.
A meeting of the so-called Group of Eight leading world economies on May 18 in the United States, could be the first opportunity to shake hands with President Barack Obama and other heads of state.
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