Voters Say 'Au Revoir' to Sarkozy: Socialist Hollande To Become Next French President

France has elected François Hollande as its next president. Incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy has become the first president in 31 years not to get elected to a second term. Hollande's election is also expected to have a major impact on European Union policies.

Photo Gallery: François Hollande Takes Over from Sarkozy Photos

François Hollande on Sunday night won France's run-off election to become the country's next president. According to an exit poll by Ipsos, Socialist Party head Hollande garnered 51.9 percent the vote, well ahead of Sarkozy, who came in at 48.1 percent.

With Hollande's election, the French people have chosen a leftist Socialist Party leader for only the second time in the history of the Fifth Republic, as the country has been referred to since changes made to its constitution in 1958. The Gaullists last governed under President François Mitterrand for 17 years from 1981 to 1995. For Sarkozy, Sunday's vote is a historical defeat because it will make his the first president in 31 years to be voted out of office after only a single term.

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Photo Gallery: France's Presidents from Auriol to Hollande
With only minutes left to go before the final polling stations close, supporters of Hollande already began gathering in front of the Socialist Party headquarters in Paris, where they waved flags in his honor.

Implications for EU's Future

Hollande's election could have a major impact on the future course of the European Union. Hollande has said he would seek to renegotiate the painstakingly agreed fiscal pact in order to include a component to ensure growth -- a demand that has ruffled feathers in Berlin.

The run-off vote began on Sunday morning with a relatively high rate of voter participation. A total of 46 million French people had been eligible to vote. And around 900,000 French living abroad were able to vote one day earlier.

Following a bitter election campaign, Hollande emerged in the decisive round of the presidential election as the clear favorite.

Hollande's political platforms were radical compared to Sarkozy's, but they also helped him to score points with voters. One proposal is to tax any earnings over €1 million at a rate of 75 percent. He has also said he would hire an additional 60,000 teachers and that he will reduce electricity prices for those with low incomes. Hollande also said he would withdraw all French soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of the year if elected.

dsl -- with wires

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Photo Gallery: François Hollande's Team
Merkel Congratulates Hollande
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, issued a press release on Sunday night stating that the leader had made a telephone call to François Hollande to congratulate the future French president on his election victory. Seibert said both were united in their view on how important deep German-French ties are and that they assured each other that they would seek to have good and trusting working relations. The German chancellor also invited president-elect Hollande to visit Berlin as quickly as possible after he is sworn in as France's new leader.

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