Hollande defeats Sarkozy 51.62 pct to 48.38 pct

Published: Monday, May 7 2012 6:28 a.m. MDT

President-elect Francois Hollande, left, waves as he arrives at the Socialist Party headquarters in Paris Monday May 7, 2012. France handed the presidency to leftist Hollande, a champion of government stimulus programs who says the state should protect the downtrodden, a victory that could deal a death blow to the drive for austerity that has been the hallmark of Europe in recent years.

Michel Spingler, Associated Press

PARIS — France has awoken to a new era after electing Socialist Francois Hollande as president, a leftist pledging to buck Europe's austerity trend and NATO's timetable for Afghanistan.

After an appearance before thronging crowds on Paris' Place de la Bastille in the early morning hours Monday during which he pledged "to finish with austerity," Hollande was back at work, arriving at his campaign headquarters around 10:30 a.m. local time.

Hollande will officially become president on May 15, the date for the handover ceremony that the two campaign teams agreed on Monday.

Hollande has his work cut out to fulfill the hopes his victory has stirred on France's Left, overjoyed to have one of their own in power for the first time since Socialist Francois Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.

Sarkozy is now the latest victim of a wave of voter anger over spending cuts in Europe that has ousted governments and leaders in the past couple of years.

Final results from France's presidential election show Hollande narrowly defeated Sarkozy with 51.62 percent of the vote, or 1.13 million of the 37 million votes cast in Sunday's election.

Sarkozy, who finished the first round about half-a-million votes behind Hollande, failed in his bid to attract sufficient votes from supporters of far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The head of the National Front party refused to endorse either candidate and said she would cast a blank vote. In that, she was followed by more than 2 million others, a total far higher than in previous elections.

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