Nicolas Sarkozy has conceded defeat in France's presidential elections. As exit polls looked strongly towards Socialist Francois Hollande throughout the day, supporters celebrated early outside the Socialist Party headquarters and in Paris' Bastille square.
Sarkozy has now called challenger Hollande to wish him "good luck" as the country's new leader shortly after the polls became certain.
The shift in leadership exhibits a swing to the left in recession hit France, as voters have continued to express anger over increasing unemployment and austerity measures. France's central position in Europe could now signal a pushback against German-led austerity in the eurozone, reports the Associated Press.
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The Guardian: François Hollande wins French presidential election
François Hollande has won power in France, turning the tide on a rightwards and xenophobic lurch in European politics and vowing to transform Europe's handling of the economic crisis by fighting back against German-led austerity measures.
The 57-year-old rural MP and self-styled Mr Normal, a moderate social-democrat from the centre of the Socialist party, is France's first left-wing president in almost 20 years. Projections from early counts, released by French TV, put his score at 51.90%.
His emphatic victory is a boost to the left in a continent that has gradually swung right since the economic crisis broke four years ago.
Nicolas Sarkozy, defeated after one term in office, became the 11th European leader to be swept from power since the economic crisis in 2008. He conceded defeat at his headquarters in the Mutualité: "I will never be like those who have beat us," he said. "From the bottom of my heart I want France to succeed with the challenges it faces. It is something much greater than us; France. This evening we must think exclusively of France."
He thanked the French people for letting him lead for five years. "Never will I forget this honour. In the life of a man presiding the destiny of France, it is something I never will be able to forget."
The defeat of the most unpopular French president ever to run for re-election was not simply the result of the global financial crisis or eurozone debt turmoil. It was also down to the intense public dislike of the man seen as "President of the Rich" who had swept to victory in 2007 with a huge mandate to change France. The majority of French people felt he had failed to deliver his promises, and he was criticised for his ostentation display of wealth, favouring the rich and leaving behind him over 2.8 million unemployed. Political analysts said anti-Sarkozyism had become a cultural phenomenon in France.
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Associated Press: Sarkozy concedes defeat in French election
Nicolas Sarkozy has conceded defeat in France's presidential elections, saying he called challenger Francois Hollande to wish him "good luck" as the country's new leader.
Sarkozy thanked his supporters Sunday and said he did his best to win a second term, despite widespread anger at his handling of the economy.
He said "I take responsibility ... for the defeat."
Polling agency projections predict that Socialist Hollande will win the elections. Partial official results also show Hollande in the lead.
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Socialist Francois Hollande swept to victory in France's presidential election on Sunday in a swing to the left at the heart of Europe that could start a pushback against German-led austerity.
Hollande was set to beat conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy by a decisive 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent margin, the TNS-Sofres polling agency said in a projection based on a partial vote count.
The president conceded defeat within 20 minutes of the last polls closing at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT), telling supporters he had telephoned Hollande to wish him good luck.
"I bear the full responsibility for this defeat," he said.
Sarkozy, punished for his failure to rein in record 10 percent unemployment and for his brash personal style, is the 11th successive leader in the euro zone to be swept from power since the currency bloc's debt crisis began in 2009.
Jubilant left-wingers celebrated outside Socialist Party headquarters and in Paris' Bastille square, where revelers danced in 1981 when Francois Mitterrand became France's only other Socialist president.
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