NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports on election day in France where voters chose their next president, Socialist Francois Hollande. He defeated incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy in a runoff to become France's second socialist president since the end of World War II.
GUY RAZ, HOST:
It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.
In France, the voters have spoken: a new president elected today and his name is Francois Hollande.
PRESIDENT-ELECT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE: (French spoken)
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
RAZ: Hollande defeated the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy. It's only the second time since World War II that French voters have elected a socialist to the Elysee Palace. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in the streets of Paris where crowds have gathered. And, Eleanor, tell us what you are seeing from where you are at.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Well, it's - this is amazing, Guy. I've never seen anything like this since I've been in Paris eight years. I was at the Socialist Party headquarters when he won. And I'm walking through the streets of Paris with crowds of just thousands of people who are making their way to the Bastille, where there's going to be a huge celebration, and Francois Hollande will come later tonight.
People are cracking open champagne bottles, people are yelling out windows, they're beeping horns, embracing. I mean, it's just a movable feast. This is a movable party through the streets of Paris.
RAZ: It looks like he's taken about 52 percent of the vote. Why did French voters oust Nicolas Sarkozy?
BEARDSLEY: Well, I've been asking people that, and the big thing is they want a change. They feel that Sarkozy compromised French values like human rights, justice, equality, you know, all of his anti-immigrant talks. And they're angry about that. They say that's not France, and they want a new president who will make people equal again, who will bring up the little man. They say it's time to put humanity at the top of the political agenda, and that's what most people are saying tonight.
RAZ: So what can we expect from a Francois Hollande administration?
BEARDSLEY: Well, he's already said he wants to meet again with Angela Merkel of Germany and renegotiate this austerity pact to put growth in it. So that's going to be a big thing. One of his people said on the radio today, he'll be talking to Merkel tonight. So we've seen the end of Merkozy, but maybe there will be a Merkellande because Hollande said he definitely wants France and Germany to still work together and lead Europe, but he says things are going to have to be done a little bit differently.
And, you know, tonight, people - the biggest feeling is that this is a breath of equality. The meanness has sort of - they say Sarkozy put his pals in positions of power, and he was, you know, a president of the rich, and he divided people. Tonight, they say France is together with Francois Hollande who always talks about rassembler - that's bringing people together - and that's really the word on the street tonight.
RAZ: It's quite a remarkable victory for Mr. Hollande because for much of his political career, he sort of was playing second fiddle to other, more charismatic leaders. Nobody really ever expected him to become the French president, right?
BEARDSLEY: No, they didn't. And it's really remarkable because, you know, somebody compared it to the tortoise and the hare, and he was. He was this tortoise who started out a year ago, and everyone thought he was boring, and they made fun of him. One of his nicknames was Flanby, after a flan, wobbly pudding. But he has really turned out to be, I have to say, a very intelligent, a forceful - and a good campaigner. And he's become very impressive in the end, and he just kept making his way, making his way, and people fell aside like Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was supposed to be the front-runner, but he was knocked out over, you know, the sex scandal.
And so he just kept coming, he kept coming. And when he finally emerged, he was very powerful. And people were stunned, but he has turned out to be a very good campaigner and a good candidate.
RAZ: Eleanor, when does Francois Hollande move into the Elysee Palace?
BEARDSLEY: You know, it's something like May 16th, so it's a stunningly quick changeover. Sarkozy does not have much time to pack his things and leave. It'll be very quickly now in the next, you know, 10 days.
RAZ: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley on the victory of Francois Hollande over Nicolas Sarkozy in the French elections. Eleanor, thanks so much.
BEARDSLEY: Thanks, Guy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.