Hollande defeated French President Nicolas Sarkozy as voters handed control of the second-biggest European economy to the Socialists for the first time in 17 years.
The 57-year-old Hollande got about 52 percent against about 48 percent for Sarkozy, according to estimates by pollsters CSA and Harris Interactive. The campaign isnâ€™t over; France elects its lower house of parliament in five weeks.
The challenger inherits an economy that is barely growing, with jobless claims at their highest in 12 years and a rising debt load that makes France vulnerable to the financial crisis that has rocked the euro region the past two years. Sarkozy became the ninth euro leader to fall in that time and the first French president in 30 years to fail to win re-election.
â€œHollandeâ€™s bet was that rejection of Nicolas Sarkozy was enough to get him elected,â€ Dominique Reynie, senior researcher at Parisâ€™s Institute of Political Studies, said before the vote. â€œThe message was that if you donâ€™t like Sarkozy then Iâ€™m your best bet.â€
Sarkozyâ€™s departure may sharpen tensions with key allies as Hollande has advocated a more aggressive European Central Bank role in spurring growth — a measure opposed by Germany — and an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan.
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