François Hollande, head of the French Socialist Party, received the news of his victory in the small French town Tulle, where he had campaigned in the past and had since held a special place in his heart. Even before the ballots closed in the big cities, it was clear that he had beaten the incumbent French President Nicolas Sarkozy in an historic swing to the left.
17 years of right-wing rule came to an end on Sunday night to the great relief of millions of French citizens who wallowed in despair and anxiety for the past year. “Vive le president, viva le France!” the jubilant crowds in the street shouted, expressing optimism that a better future is at hand.
French television anchors were hard pressed to comply with the law that required they hold off on announcing the election results before 8 p.m. and pretend they don’t know what was already clear. At 6:30 P.M.. the cameras had already recorded the tens of thousands that crowded in front of the Socialist Party headquarters in the rue de Solférino, shutting the street down to traffic with a spontaneous victory celebration. And while the French presenters remained silent, every European television station outside France broke in to the programming announcing the news: France has a new president.
The celebrations everywhere started more than an hour before the official results were announced. The editors and writers if the Libération arrived at its offices in their Sunday best and began pouring wine. Not only journalists were present, as is the tradition, each of them invited five friends to the post-election party and these started coming in as of 7 P.M.. dressed to kill and wearing smiles.
For the older socialists the victory was compensation for the shock and agony of the first round of the 2002 elections. The younger crowd talked with gleaming eyes of the legendry 1981 transfer of power. “Vive la gauche!” (Long live the left) someone jokingly shouted. “Vive la gauche!” an entire floor answered completely certain.
At 8 P.M., rue de Solférino closed to traffic and was filled with cries of “We won, we won,” the performers that were scheduled to appear on a stage at the Bastille had already left for the plaza accompanied by leaders of leftist organizations such as SOS Racisme’s Harlem Désir, but the poor Channel 2 reporter was still waiting for the door to François Hollande office to swing open and France to find out who its next President will is.
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