7 May 2012
South African President Jacob Zuma has joined international leaders in congratulating Francois Hollande following the socialist party leader’s victory in France’s presidential runoff elections on Sunday.
Hollande won an estimated 51.05 percent of the votes, beating Sarkozy’s 48.95 percent, according to initial results.
“We would like to take this opportunity to extend our congratulations to Mr Hollande and the people of France for a successful election,” Zuma said in a statement on Sunday evening.
He said South Africa and France enjoyed strong bilateral political and trade relations, and hoped that the two countries would continue to build on them under the new leadership.
Swing to the left
The win ends 17 years of conservative leadership in France and marks a swing to the left that will mean key policy changes at the heart of Europe.
Sarkozy, swamped by voters’ anger at his failure to rein in rife unemployment, became Europe’s 11th leader to be swept out by the eurozone debt crisis.
He conceded defeat minutes after the polls closed, and addressed his supporters at the headquarters of his party.
“France has a new president; it’s a democratic, republican choice,” Sarkozy said. “Francois Hollande is the president of France and must be respected. I just spoke to him on the telephone, and I want to wish him good luck amid the ordeals.
“It will be difficult, but I wish with all my heart that France, our country which brings us together, manages to get through these ordeals, because there is something much bigger than us; it’s our country, it’s our homeland,” Sarkozy said.
‘Heavy challenges await us’
Hollande, who will be France’s first socialist president since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995, spoke of bringing hope and change to France.
“The first duty of the President of the Republic is to bring together and link all citizens to communal action so as to face up to the challenges awaiting us, and there are many and they are heavy,” Hollande said.
“First of all, to increase production in order to get the country out of the crisis, reducing our deficit in order to control debt, the preservation of our social model to ensure to all the same equal access to public services.”
Hollande vowed to rework a deal that called on European governments to cut their debt.
He also promised to raise taxes on big corporations and people earning more than a million euros a year.
France plays an important role in various multilateral forums, including the European Union, United Nations Security Council, G20, and the International Monetary Fund.