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France's Holland Declares Victory In Presidential Election, Urges Unity

May 06, 2012

Socialist Francois Hollande has declared victory in France’s presidential election, following a bitter campaign against Nicolas Sarkozy.

"The French on this 6th of May have chosen change, carrying me to the office of president of the republic," Hollande told huge crowds of supporters in his electoral base of Tulle in central France.

The Socialist leader said he was "proud to have been capable of giving French people hope again." He also urged unity and promosed to be “the president of all."

According to projections based on partial results of Sunday's run-off vote, Hollande got some 52 percent, against 48 percent for Sarkozy.

Not long after the preliminary results were announced, crowds had filled the Place de la Bastille in Paris to celebrate Hollande's victory.

Hollande will be France's first leftist head of state since Francois Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.

Sarkozy conceded defeat within 20 minutes of the last polls closing at 8 p.m. local time, and told his supporters in Paris he had telephoned Hollande to congratulate him.

"I want to wish him good luck in the middle of these challenges," he said. "It will be difficult. But I wish for him with all my heart that France, our country which brings us together, can pass through all its difficulties."

Sarkozy also said he "took responsibility" for the defeat.

Sarkozy indicated that he would have a "different" role in French public life, but did not confirm reports that he would retire from politics.

Economic Fears

With unemployment at 10 percent -- a 12-year-high -- the election campaign was driven by fears about joblessness, immigration, and France's economic future.

Hollande's victory could change how the European Union tackles its debt crisis. He wants more government stimulus, and more government spending in spite of market concerns that France needs to curb its huge debts.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso congratulated Hollande on his victory on Sunday and said he shared his goal for jumpstarting Europe's economy.

In Berlin German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also hailed Hollande’s victory as an "historic event" and said his country would work with France on mapping out a growth pact for Europe.

Hollande has said that he wants to renegotiate a budget discipline treaty signed by 25 EU leaders in March, seen as crucial for the future of the eurozone. The treaty was championed by Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

France is Europe's second-largest economy and is a vital partner for Germany.

The Socialist leader has said he would visit Germany's center-right Chancellor Angela Merkel within days of the election to discuss his plans.

Hollande's election could also have an impact on how long French troops stay in Afghanistan.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for June.

With reporting by AP AFP, Reuters and dpa


Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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