François Hollande has won France’s presidential election, giving the country its first Socialist president in almost two decades, exit polls showed Sunday.
According to Ipsos polling institute, the left-wing candidate took 51.9% of the vote to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’s 48.1%.
Celebrations are underway at the iconic Place de la Bastille in central Paris, the same spot where the last Socialist to win a presidential election, François Mitterrand, celebrated his victory back in 1981.
Hollande, who voted on Sunday in the central Corrèze region, which he represents in the French parliament, was considered the frontrunner throughout the campaign, at times leading his rival by as much as 10% in opinion polls.
He finished ahead in the first round on April 22, claiming 28.63% of votes cast against Sarkozy’s 27.18%.
In a twin blow to Sarkozy between the two rounds, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist François Bayrou, who gathered around 18% and 9% respectively, both denied the incumbent an endorsement. Bayrou told supporters his personal vote would go to Hollande, while Le Pen said she would cast a blank vote.
At 79.9%, according to Ipsos, voter turnout was strong, though slightly lower than the figure reached in 2007.
Hollande will be sworn in as France’s president on May 14 or 15.