François Hollande - A Socialist, Wins in French Presidential Election
François Hollande swept to victory on Sunday, becoming the first Socialist to become president of France since François Mitterrand re-election in 1988.
The Socialist party is seeking to return to the French Presidency for the first time since François Mitterrand left office in 1995.
Mr. Hollande campaigned on a kinder, gentler, more inclusive France, but his victory over 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.
With about half the vote 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, won about 49 percent.
Sarkozy's total will be seen as a personal failure. It is the first time an outgoing president has failed to win a first-round vote in the past 50 years and makes it harder for Sarkozy to regain momentum. The final vote between Hollande and Sarkozy now depends on a delicate balance of how France's total of rightwing and leftwing voters line up.
Hollande told cheering supporters in his rural fiefdom of Corrèze in south-west France that he was best-placed to lead France towards change, saying the vote marked a "rejection" of Sarkozy and a "sanction" against his five years in office.
He said France clearly wanted to "close one page and open another". He reiterated his opposition to austerity alone as the only way out of Europe's crisis: "My final duty, and I know I'm being watched from beyond our borders, is to put Europe back on the path of growth and employment."
A key victory of the night was for the Front National's Le Pen, who came third with around 18% of the vote, beating her father Jean-Marie's record success in 2002, and placing herself firmly at the heart of rightwing politics in France. She said "the battle of France has just begun" and "nothing will be the same again".
Hollande's manifesto is based on scrapping Sarkozy's tax-breaks for the rich and putting up taxes for high earners to finance what he deems essential spending, including creating 60,000 posts in France's under-performing school system. He has pledged to keep the public deficit capped, but for his delicate balancing act to work, he needs a swift return to growth in France, despite economists warning of over-optimistic official growth forecasts that need to be trimmed.
Asked on Friday what he would do if he loses, Sarkozy said simply: "There will be a handover of power. The nation follows its course. The nation is stronger than the destiny of the men who serve it," he said.
- Asian Tribune –