Francois Hollande was elected France’s first Socialist President in nearly 20 years over the weekend, shaking up European politics.
Hollande, 57, won approximately 52% of the vote, becoming the first Socialist President since Francois Mitterrand in 1995.
The result will have implications for Europe as it struggles to emerge from a financial crisis and for France, the eurozone’s second-largest economy.
Incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy conceded defeat and signalled he intends to step back from frontline politics after the high unemployment rate through is five years in office hurt his chances.
“The French people have made their choice… Francois Hollande is president of France and he must be respected,” Sarkozy told a crowd of supporters according to AAP.
Leaders of his centre-right UMP party told AFP Sarkozy would not lead them into June’s Parliamentary elections.
Hollande was due to speak later as joyful crowds gathered in his adopted hometown of Tulle and in Paris to celebrate victory.
“We are rid of a poison that was blighting our society. A normal President! It gives us a lot to dream about,” Didier Stephan, a 70-year-old artist who was among throngs of supporters at Paris’s Place de la Bastille told AAP.
Voter turnout was high despite rain, reaching 71.96% at 5pm Paris time (1.00am AEST), according to French interior ministry figures.
The election was marked by fears over European Union-imposed austerity.
Hollande said his first foreign meeting will be with conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel – the key driver of EU budget policy.
The new French President vowed to renegotiate the fiscal austerity pact signed by EU leaders in March to focus more on growth, but will face resistance from Merkel who is facing a political backlash from German voters who do not want to contribute to bailouts.