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France: Socialist Hollande wins French presidency
Socialist Francois Hollande has won the French presidency, ousting Nicolas Sarkozy. In a result which could have far-reaching implications for the eurozone, Hollande has pledged to renegotiate Europe's austerity pact.
Tens of thousands of supporters gathered at Paris's Place de la Bastille on Sunday to celebrate French's president-elect Francois Hollande's victory over conservative incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy.
With 99 percent of the vote counted, Socialist Hollande won Sunday's presidential runoff with 51.7 percent of the vote. He is France's first Socialist president in nearly two decades. Sarkozy, meanwhile, secured 48.3 percent, making him the 11th European leader to be swept out since the global economic crisis erupted in 2008.
Addressing the crowds at the Place de la Bastille, Hollande hailed his victory as a sign of growing discontent in Europe against fiscal austerity.
Earlier Hollande gave his victory speech in his constituency of Tulle in central France. "Austerity can no longer be the only option," he told another huge crowd of supporters.
Sarkozy concedes defeat
Sarkozy conceded within 30 minutes of the polls closing, saying he had spoken with Hollande on the phone to wish him good luck.
"I bear the full responsibility for this defeat," Sarkozy said.
"My place can no longer be the same. My involvement in the life of my country will be different from now on," he added, indicating he would withdraw from frontline politics.
Sarkozy's popularity had waned during his five-year term over his handling of the economic crisis and failure to rein in France's double-digit jobless rate. He has also attracted criticism for his apparent "flashy style."
Hollande victory welcomed
President Barack Obama joined a growing number of world leaders on Sunday to offer their congratulations to Francois Hollande.
Sarkozy ended his term as the least popular president in French history
In a statement the White House said Obama had told Hollande in a phone conversation that he "looks forward to working closely" with him and his government on a "range of shared economic and security challenges." Obama invited the president-elect to the White House this month.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also phoned Hollande to offer her congratulations. The conservative leader, who worked closely with outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy, invited him to Berlin as soon as possible.
As France looks set to take a new economic direction, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle stressed that both countries still shared a "joint objective" to help the EU respond the debt crisis.
Austerity measures up for debate
Nevertheless, Merkel and Hollande are likely to have a difficult relationship. Merkel backed Sarkozy's reelection, and has rejected Hollande's notion that the European treaty on trimming budgets is renegotiable.
Hollande led his campaign with promises to rework the treaty to avoid a debt crisis similar to that which Greece is now facing. He also wants to raise taxes, especially on high earners, and increase government spending.
ccp, ncy/nt (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)
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