Belt-tightening critic Hollande wins in polls

Belt-tightening critic Hollande wins in polls

Belt-tightening critic Hollande wins in polls

People gathers on Bastille square to celebrate François Hollande’s victory in the French presidential election in Paris. Center-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy is the first French president not to win a second term since 1981. ABACA photo

France’s president-elect François Hollande will face daunting tasks after his election as France’s first left-wing president in 17 years, with financial markets eager for clear signals on his policies and how hard he plans to push back against German-led austerity.

The 57-year-old Socialist won power May 6 in a close race against France’s outgoing right-wing leader Nicolas Sarkozy, triggering joyful street parties, and now faces the immediate challenge of dealing with Europe’s debt crisis. Final results from France’s presidential election show Hollande narrowly defeated Sarkozy with 51.62 percent of the vote.

Hollande will be sworn in as France’s new president on May 15, an official at outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office said yesterday. Hollande has begun consultations with European allies, including telephone talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Hollande has vowed to slow the pace of Sarkozy’s public spending cuts and renegotiate the EU fiscal pact, under which the 17 members of the single currency bloc agreed on tough measures to slash their deficits. In his victory speech on May 6, Hollande admitted that the eyes of Europe and the world were on France, but promised to carry through on his promise to revise the hard-won EU stability pact to focus more on growth than cuts. “Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option,” he said.

First visit to Berlin

The left reclaimed Bastille square, where revelers had danced the night away in 1981 when François Mitterrand became the Socialist Party’s first directly elected president. Three decades later, a new generation of left-wing voters waved red flags, and some carried roses, the party emblem. Germany’s Merkel had made no secret during the campaign of her support for fellow right-wing and EU fiscal pact architect Sarkozy, but she wasted no time in reaching out to Hollande once his victory was confirmed.
Merkel telephoned to congratulate Hollande and invited him to Berlin after his inauguration. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, “We will now work together on a growth pact for Europe that delivers more growth through more competitiveness.”

After seeing Merkel shortly after his inauguration Hollande will face a series of international meetings, including a G-8 summit in the United States on May 18 and 19 and a NATO gathering in Chicago on May 20 and 21. U.S. President Barack Obama invited Hollande for talks at the White House before the G-8 summit. Sarkozy congratulated Hollande on the win and signaled that he intends to step back from frontline politics. Statesmen across the world congratulated Hollande on winning the French presidential vote.

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.