Le Monde, the French newspaper, has declared Socialist candidate Francois Hollande the winner of the second and decisive round of the country's presidential election with 51.9 percent of the vote, while saying the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy gained 48.1 percent.
The final numbers were closer than polls suggested on the last day of the campaign on Friday, when Hollande was believed to have 53 percent of the tally.
Francois Hollande is the president of France, and he must be respected, Sarkozy said, according to BBC News. He also reportedly told his UMP party supporters to ”hold together.”
Already, bickering has erupted among senior UMP officials.
David-Xavier Weiss, the UMP national secretary of the UMP in charge of press and media, has branded the strategy implemented by Sarkozy’s principal campaign adviser Patrick Buisson as a “total failure.”
Meanwhile, thousands of jubilant Hollande supporters are celebrating the victory in his hometown of Tulle in central France, at the Socialist Party headquarters in Paris, and at Place de la Bastille in Paris.
Hollande becomes France’s first Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand’s last term ended in 1995.
Like Le Monde, the Wall Street Journal and Le Soir also have declared Hollande the winner. The Journal described the race as a “a hard-fought campaign that pitted two radically different personalities against each other.”
Hollande’s victory poses some challenges for the European Union, which wants France and other member countries to stick to a tight austerity program to reduce debt.
Hollande said he plans to scale back some of Sarkozy’s economic measures. Among other things, the Socialist wants to raise taxes on millionaires and large corporations, hike the minimum wage, hire 60,000 teachers, and lower the retirement age to 60 from 62.