|Hail Hollande: Liberal dawn in France|
The mild-mannered Hollande, a socialist, won by a decisive vote--51.9% against right-wing Sarkozy's 48.1%. The victory is seen as a vote against 'arrogant' Sarkozy, who courted controversies and failed to meet his promises on employment apart from his failure to improve economy.
Sarkozy was also blamed as an Islamophobe because of his decision to ban the 'burqa' or veil in France. His views on Muslims and campaign against 'Halal' food, was seen as an attempt to get votes by playing to the right-wing gallery.
This upset Muslims who felt insulted and cornered. France has one of the largest Muslim population in Europe. The country is home to an estimated 6-7 million (60-70 lakh) Muslims which is around 10-15% of the nation's population. The mood among minorities was against Sarkozy, just like immigrants.
Sarkozy's views on immigration also showed his extreme right-wing leanings that were not in sync with France's liberal, inclusive and accommodating culture that till recently advocated peaceful coexistence even though it separated church from the state.
Hollande rode on the popular wave against Sarkozy who was seen more as a self-centred, publicity seeking and arrogant politician. On the contrary, Hollande, termed as 'Mr Normal' in the run up to the election. The result is a humiliating defeat for Sarkozy and his UMP.
The outgoing president was accused of dividing people, stoking fear among French citizens and creating panic for getting votes. Often Sarkozy was often more in the news because of his glamorous wife Carla Bruni.
Sarkozy's successor has promised that French forces would return from Afghanistan soon. Apart from Hollande's victory, the results have far-reaching implications for Europe. It sends a clear signal to Angela Merkel, and to the Euro zone.
While Sarkozy conceded his loss and said that he would no longer play an active role in French politics, it was celebration for the left-wing supporters in France. Hollande is the first socialist president to be elected to the office since Francois Mitterrand in 1995.