7 May 2012

Francois Hollande new president of France

3:37 pm on 7 May 2012

France's new president Francois Hollande has addressed his supporters after beating incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, promising fairness for all.

Mr Hollande said people had clearly voted for change and he was committed to serving with devotion and example. He will officially become president on 15 May.

He is France's first Socialist president since 1995 and held 51.7% of the vote on Sunday, capitalising on the country's economic woes and the unpopularity of Mr Sarkozy, who got 48% of the vote. Turnout was about 80%.

In a victory speech in Tulle in central France on Sunday, Francois Hollande said he was ''proud to have been capable of giving people hope again''.

He said he would push ahead with his pledge to refocus European Union fiscal efforts from austerity to growth. Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option.

Mr Hollande called for a renegotiation of a European treaty on budget discipline championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Sarkozy.

He wants to raise the minimum wage, hire 60,000 more teachers and lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some workers.

Analysts say the vote has wide implications for the eurozone. Mr Hollande has vowed to rework a deal on government debt in member countries.

Concession call

Nicolas Sarkozy telephoned his opponent to concede on Sunday night. He told supporters he took responsibility for his defeat and said he would not lead his party into the parliamentary elections in June.

Mr Sarkozy is the 11th eurozone leader to be swept away by the economic crisis in Europe over the past two years.

It is only the second time that an incumbent president has failed to win re-election since the start of France Fifth Republic in 1958.

The last was Valery Giscard d'Estaing. In 1981 he was beaten by Francois Mitterrand, who had two terms in office until 1995.

Voters in the French Pacific defied the trend in France, backing Nicolas Sarkozy with clear majorities in New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

France's ambassador to New Zealand Francis Etienne says the change of president will not mean any real changes in the relationship with Wellington.

Mr Etienne says it will take some time to see the shape of the new government, but expects Francois Hollande to bring a new style of leadership and considerable domestic policy changes ahead.

German comment

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle says the country will work with France to map a growth pact for Europe.

Speaking at the French embassy in Berlin, Mr Westerwelle sought to allay fears that the change of power would put the brakes on the Franco-German motor that has driven Europe through the crisis.

He said the two European economies were committed to working together to get the eurozone economy growing again.

Francois Hollande has irritated German leaders by criticising Chancellor Merkel's insistence on austerity as the way out of the economic crisis gripping Europe.

Mrs Merkel had backed Mr Sarkozy for a second term, but the United States and Britain have declared their support for Mr Hollande.

US president Barack Obama says he is looking forward to working closely with the Socialist and his government on a range of shared economic and security challenges.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has also promised to work with the Socialist leader to strengthen the relationship between the United Kingdom and France.