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Socialist François Hollande elected president of France

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 7th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In France, left-wing candidate François Hollande has defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in the weekend's runoff. Hollande has become the first Socialist to win a presidential election since François Mitterrand in 1988. The left-wing candidate took 51.7 percent of the vote to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy's 48.3 percent, according to Ipsos polling institute.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Hollande, who voted in the central Corrèze region, where he represents in the French parliament, had been considered the frontrunner throughout the campaign, at times leading his rival by as much as 10 percent in opinion polls. Hollande finished ahead in the first round on April 22, claiming 28.63 percent of votes cast against Sarkozy's 27.18 percent.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist François Bayrou, who gathered around 18 percent and 9 percent respectively in the first round had both denied Sarkozy an endorsement. B

Voter turnout was strong at 80 percent, though slightly lower than the 84 percent reached in 2007.

Hollande will be sworn in as France's president on May 14 or 15.

Hollande's career originally appeared to be all but over after he left the leadership of the Socialist Party in 2008.

Hollande promises to hire more staff to boost France's state education system and to reduce the retirement age from 62 to 60 for people who have completed a minimum 41 years of work. Hollande also pledged to raise taxes on the wealthy and balance the country's budget by 2017.

A major point of contention in France - the problem of an ever-growing immigrant population, saw both the far right and Sarkozy adopting an anti-immigration stance during the campaign. Hollande stands by a promise to give foreigners the right to vote in local elections.

Historically, Sarkozy became only the second French president to fail to claim a second mandate since Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was swept out of office in 1981.

The Socialist Party will be hoping to use the vote's momentum to win back a majority in parliament in elections this June.

Hollande said he was "proud to have been capable of giving people hope again," saying he would push ahead with his pledge to refocus EU fiscal efforts from austerity to "growth."

"Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option," he said.

After his speech in Tulle, Hollande headed to Brive airport on his way to Paris to address supporters at Place de la Bastille. His voice hoarse, he spoke of his pride at taking over the mantle of the presidency 31 years almost to the day since Socialist predecessor Francois Mitterrand was elected.

"I am the president of the youth of France," he told the assembled crowd of tens of thousands of supporters, emphasizing his "pride at being president of all the republic's citizens". "You are a movement that is rising up throughout Europe," he said.

Governments around the world will be keenly watching Hollande's first steps on the issue of Europe's continuing debt crisis. Hollande has been among Europe's most vocal anti-austerity politicians. Hollande is expected to call German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who previously worked with Sarkozy on the debt crisis.

"He will talk with the German chancellor because in that exchange lies the key to Europe's recovery, redirecting Europe towards growth, competitiveness and protection," said Jean-Marc Ayrault, a prominent Socialist who is being touted as a possible future prime minister.

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