PARIS—François Hollande swept to victory on Sunday, becoming the first socialist to become president of France since François Mitterrand left office in 1995.
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 eurozone, which is suffering from a recession and record unemployment.
French voters may not like belt-tightening, but both Hollande and Sarkozy had promised to balance the budget in the next five years. The vote was viewed domestically as a rejection of the unpopular Sarkozy and his relentless effort to appeal to the voters of the far-right National Front party. Sarkozy is the first incumbent president to lose since 1981.
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 Hollande had secured about 51 per cent of the vote while Sarkozy, of the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement, won about 49 per cent. Opinion pollsters suggested that the final result would be closer to 52 percent versus 48 percent.