Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

French hail new era in politics

President-elect Francois Hollande holds a bouquet of roses after delivering his victory speech in Tulle, central France (AP)
Outgoing French president Nicolas Sarkozy conceded defeat in a speech to supporters (AP)
Supporters of Socialist candidate Francois Hollande react with delight after the first results are announced (AP)

In a whirlwind first day after winning the French presidency, Socialist Francois Hollande already has a to-do list that includes an invite to the White House, visits to the G8 and Nato summits and a World War Two ceremony with his defeated rival.

The leftist who has pledged to buck Europe's austerity trend and Nato's timetable for Afghanistan appeared before thronging crowds on Paris's Place de la Bastille in the early hours, pledging "to finish with austerity". Hours later, he was back at work, arriving at his campaign headquarters around 10.30am local time.

Mr Hollande will officially become president on May 15, the date for the handover ceremony that the two campaign teams agreed to.

He has his work cut out to fulfil the hopes his victory has stirred on France's left, overjoyed to have one of their own in power for the first time since Socialist Francois Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.

He must form a new government then pack his bags for some quick international travel in Europe and to the United States.

Even before his start date, the president-elect is due to appear alongside Nicolas Sarkozy at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe.

US president Barack Obama has extended Mr Hollande an invitation to the White House ahead of this month's summit of the Group of Eight leading economies at Camp David, Maryland. After that, Mr Hollande will attend a Nato summit in Chicago, where he will announce he is pulling French troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Among the other international leaders calling to congratulate Mr Hollande was Germany's Angela Merkel, who told reporters in Berlin today that she and Mr Hollande had spoken for the first time late.

"We said we will work well and intensively together," she said. On Mrs Merkel's invitation, Mr Hollande will head to Berlin just after assuming the presidency on May 15, Pierre Moscovici , who served as campaign manager, told reporters.

Mrs Merkel cautioned against hopes that the austerity measures already agreed by European leaders could now be renegotiated. "We in Germany, and I personally, believe the fiscal pact is not up for negotiation," she said.

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