French voters have chosen challenger Francois Hollande as their next president, the first Socialist president in nearly two decades by winning 51.9 per cent of the votes.
Hollande unseated incumbent Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in a heated election on on Sunday, marking a swing to the left at the heart of Europe and heralding a fight-back against German-led austerity.
Celebrations are underway at the iconic Place de la Bastille in central Paris, the same spot where the last Socialist to win a presidential election, François Mitterrand, celebrated his victory back in 1981.
Hollande, who voted on Sunday in the central Corrèze region, which he represents in the French parliament, was considered the frontrunner throughout the campaign, at times leading his rival by as much as 10% in opinion polls.
The president conceded defeat within 20 minutes of the last polls closing at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT), telling supporters he had telephoned Hollande to wish him good luck.
“I bear the full responsibility for this defeat,” he said.
Sarkozy, punished for his failure to rein in record 10 percent unemployment and for his brash personal style, is the 11th successive leader in the euro zone to be swept from power since the currency bloc’s debt crisis began in 2009.
Jubilant left-wingers celebrated outside Socialist Party headquarters and in Paris’ Bastille square, where revelers danced in 1981 when Francois Mitterrand became France’s only other Socialist president.
Francois Hollande finished ahead in the first round on April 22, claiming 28.63% of votes cast against Sarkozy’s 27.18%.