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World Leaders Congratulate Hollande On Victory In French Vote

  • RFE/RL

World leaders have congratulated Socialist Francois Hollande for his victory in the May 6 presidential runoff vote in France.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called Hollande’s victory a "historic event" and said the countries would work together to help the European Union respond to its debt crisis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also invited Hollande to Berlin for talks, despite his defeat of her closest European ally, Nicolas Sarkozy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also congratulated Hollande, vowing to work to strengthen bilateral ties.

In making his own congratulatory call, U.S. President Barack Obama invited Hollande to the White House ahead of the G8 and NATO summits in the United States later this month.

A statement said Obama looked forward to working together on economic and security challenges.

Spanish, Italian, and Canadian leaders were also quick to congratulate the French president-elect.

With only votes from abroad left to count, Hollande won the contest with 51.67 percent of the vote to 48.33 percent for Sarkozy.

With the victory, he becomes France's first Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand held the post from 1981 to 1995.

Hollande's victory could change how the European Union tackles its debt crisis.

In stark contrast to Sarkozy, he has advocated more government stimulus spending in spite of market concerns that France needs to curb its huge debts.

He has also said that his first act after the election will be to write a letter to other European leaders calling for a renegotiation of a eurozone budget-trimming treaty to allow for government-funded stimulus programs.

Hollande has also pledged to modify one of Sarkozy's key reforms, allowing some to retire at 60 instead of 62, and to ease France off its dependence on nuclear energy. He also favors legalizing euthanasia and gay marriage.

Hollande has also called for bringing French troops home early from Afghanistan.

The mild-mannered 57-year-old was greeted by tens of thousands of supporters at the Paris's Place de la Bastille, where French, EU, and labor union flags filled the air.

He told the crowd that his victory was part of a movement rising across the continent against fiscal austerity.

"You are much more than a people who want change. You are already a movement that is rising across all of Europe and maybe the world," he said.

He also called for unity following a bitter campaign with the outgoing Sarkozy.

“We are living a great moment, a beautiful moment. We have to make this victory not a victory of revenge or rejection, grudge and resentment. No! A beautiful victory, a great victory that elevates our country, that makes us happy, that brings us together," he said.

Sarkozy, who analysts said was punished for his failure to curb 10-percent unemployment and for his brash personal style, conceded defeat within 20 minutes of polls closing. He told supporters he wished Hollande luck.

Sarkozy also indicated that he would have a "different" role in French public life, but did not confirm reports that he would retire from politics.

Hollande is expected to be sworn in by May 15.

Parliamentary elections in France are scheduled for June.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

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