PARIS - Socialist candidate Francois Hollande won France's presidential election on Sunday, May 7, defeating right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.
"Many people have been waiting for this moment for many long years. Others, younger, have never known such a time," Hollande told jubilant supporters in Tulle, Reuters reported.
"I am proud to be capable to bring about hope again."Tonight, there are not two Frances. ... There is only one France, only one nation that is united with the same destiny," Hollande said.
Hollande beat Sarkozy by a decisive 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent, based on partial results.
Sarkozy conceded his defeat in Sunday's runoff to his Socialist challenger.
"I bear the full responsibility for this defeat," Sarkozy told supporters, saying that he had telephoned Hollande to wish him good luck.
Punished for his failure to rein in 10 percent unemployment and for his brash personal style, Sarkozy was the 11th euro zone leader in succession to be swept from power since the currency bloc's debt crisis began in 2009.
Sarkozy hinted that he would withdraw from France's frontline politics after his defeat.
"My place can no longer be the same. My involvement in the life of my country will be different from now on," he said.
"I'm ready to become a French person amongst French people, and more than ever I have the love for my country deeply ingrained in my heart."
The news of Hollande's victory sent left-wingers into the streets in celebration
"It's a great night, full of joy for so many young people all across the country," Thierry Marchal-Beck, president of the Movement of Young Socialists, told CNN.
Thousands of jubilant left-wingers thronged Paris's Bastille square, where revelers danced the night away in 1981 when Francois Mitterrand became France's only previous directly elected Socialist president.
Hollande, a mild-mannered career politician, led the race from start to finish, outlining a comprehensive program in January based on raising taxes, especially on high earners, to finance spending priorities and keep the public deficit capped.
He has vowed to balance France's budget by 2017, but economists say he is likely to have to make public spending cuts soon.
As much as his own program, Hollande benefited from an anti-Sarkozy mood due to his abrasive personal style and to anger about the same economic gloom that has swept aside leaders from Dublin to Lisbon and Athens.
Sarkozy's supporters consoled themselves with the fact that the margin could have been worse, preserving their hopes for the parliamentary elections.
"People were talking about an anti-Sarkozy tsunami," Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.
"That's not what happened."