The French people have spoken. François Hollande has been elected President of the Republic with 51.9 percent of the vote against 48.1 percent for the incumbent president, Nicolas Sarkozy, according to early results released by Ipsos at 8:00 p.m., Central European Time. And even as the final ballot counts come in throughout the evening, there is little doubt as to the election's outcome, as the Union for a Popular Movement candidate is unlikely to regain the lead over his Socialist challenger, already conceding defeat.
And so, François Hollande will become the seventh president elected by universal suffrage under the Fifth Republic, 31 years after his illustrious Socialist predecessor, François Mitterrand, was elected. The politician from Corrèze has been preparing himself for this day since early 2009, when he was still on the margins of the political landscape. Since easily winning the nomination in October 2011 as candidate for the Socialist Party, Hollande has been the frontrunner of the presidential campaign, spurred on by polls which never placed him below the 52 percent mark in the second round.
“I, President of the Republic,” a phrase which Hollande repeated during the debate between election rounds, showed the French people his intended style as president, and will surely go down as a passage of note. Hollande's style came in stark contrast to the Sarkozy years, which were characterized by the former Neuilly mayor’s brash and antagonistic personality.
Having taken refuge since Saturday in his Corrèze headquarters, an area now home to two presidents, François Hollande delivered his victory speech in front of the Tulle Cathedral before boarding a plane for Paris, where his supporters will gather at the Place de la Bastille to celebrate their win.
Nicolas Sarkozy, The Second President To Not Win Re-election
For outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost nearly 4 percentage points compared to his 2007 election results, this second-round vote is a clear political indictment and confirms his campaign's failure between the two rounds, when he aggressively courted the far-right in an attempt to convince Marine Le Pen’s supports to rally behind his conservative stances.
The UMP candidate’s defeat is significant on two points: France has once again embraced the idea of a changing of the guard, after 17 years of RPR-UMP presidents and three consecutive Socialist Party failures; the electorate also has stripped a presidential candidate of his own succession, something which has not happened since 1981, when François Mitterrand defeated Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
The comparisons with 1981 don’t stop there. In that year, the conservative president was also defeated at the ballot box following a five-year term burdened with an oil crisis and rising unemployment, set against a backdrop of political-economic scandals.
One thing is clear: tonight’s vote likely spells the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s political career, as he has maintained that he would not return to previous appointments if defeated. At 57 years old, the deposed president, who becomes a de facto member of the Constitutional Council, has yet to give any indication what his plans are following the transfer of power.