Hollande defeats Sarkozy in French presidency vote
President-elect Francois Hollande holds a bouquet of roses after delivering his speech in Tulle, central France, Sunday, May 6, 2012. Francois Hollande defeated Sarkozy on Sunday to become France's next president, Sarkozy conceded defeat minutes after the polls closed. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
PARIS (AP) — Socialist Francois Hollande defeated conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday to become France's next president, heralding a change in how Europe tackles its debt crisis and how France flexes its military and diplomatic muscle around the world.
Exuberant, diverse crowds filled the Place de la Bastille, the iconic plaza of the French Revolution, to fete Hollande's victory, waving French, European and labor union flags and climbing its central column. Leftists are overjoyed to have one of their own in power for the first time since Socialist Francois Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.
"Austerity can no longer be inevitable!" Hollande declared in his victory speech Sunday night after a surprising campaign that saw him transform from an unremarkable, mild figure to an increasingly statesmanlike one.
Sarkozy is the latest victim of a wave of voter anger at government spending cuts around Europe that have tossed out governments and leaders over the past couple of years.
In Greece, a parliamentary vote Sunday is seen as critical to the country's prospects for pulling out of a deep financial crisis felt in world markets. A state election in Germany and local elections in Italy were seen as tests of support for the national government's policies.
Outgoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy waves from his car as he leaves after addressing supporters at his Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party headquarters after the the preliminary results of the second round of the presidential elections were announced in Paris Sunday May 6, 2012. Socialist Francois Hollande defeated Sarkozy on Sunday to become France's next president, Sarkozy conceded defeat minutes after the polls closed. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Hollande promised help for France's downtrodden after years under the Sarkozy, a man many voters saw as too friendly with the rich and blamed for economic troubles.
Hollande said European partners should be relieved and not frightened by his presidency.
"I am proud to have been capable of giving people hope again," Hollande told huge crowds of supporters in his electoral fiefdom of Tulle in central France. "We will succeed!"
Hollande inherits an economy that's a driver of the European Union but is deep in debt. He wants more government stimulus, and more government spending in general, despite concerns in the markets that France needs to urgently trim its huge debt.
While some market players have worried about a Hollande presidency, Jeffrey Bergstrand, professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame, said it's a good thing that Hollande will push for more spending throughout Europe to stimulate the economy.
Europe is "going into a really serious and poor situation," Bergstrand said. Hollande "is going to become the speaker for those countries that want to do something about economic growth."