Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy’s Socialist rival in the French run-off presidential election, declares victory, saying that the electorate opted for “change” in choosing him over the incumbent president.
According to exit polls, Hollande has secured around 51 percent of the vote against some 49 percent garnered by Sarkozy in the run-off, which was held on Sunday.
“I bear the full responsibility for this defeat,” Sarkozy said after the result was made public.
Hollande’s jubilant supporters have gathered in front of the Socialist Party’s headquarters in Paris and come together in his hometown of Tulle in southwestern France as the news of the result spreads across the country just ahead of official announcement.
"French people, on the 6th of May, have chosen change," the victor told his advocates in Tulle.
About 46 million people were eligible to vote in the second round.
The run-off was held after Hollande inconclusively won the first round on April 22 with 28.63 percent of the ballots against Sarkozy’s 27.18 percent.
He is the first Socialist politician to win the presidential election after 17 years of right-wing dominance over the country’s politics.
He now has to face the country’s rising unemployment and stagnant economy, for which Sarkozy has been under fire.
Hollande has also criticized the austerity plans implemented by Sarkozy's government, saying austerity can no longer be the only option for Europe, and pledged to bring growth and prosperity back to the continent.