Bastille mega-party for France's new Socialist leader



PARIS, Deborah Pasmentier and Charles Onians- Jubilant left-wingers on Sunday thronged the Bastille, a Paris square synonymous with the French Revolution, to celebrate the triumph of France's first Socialist president in nearly two decades.
"Sarko, it's over!" was the cry from the tens of thousands who gathered in the eastern plaza to wait for Francois Hollande to arrive to give a victory speech.



Bastille mega-party for France's new Socialist leader
Champagne corks and red smoke flares popped as Hollande's face appeared on giant screens set up near the stage where the president-elect was due to speak around midnight (2200 GMT) after flying back from his central hometown of Tulle.
"The Elysee is ours!", "We have won, we have won!" chanted the crowd after hearing that right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy had lost the vote after a five-year mandate, during which critics said he had sought to divide France.
Many in the crowd drew parallels with 1981, when Socialist candidate Francois Mitterrand delivered a victory speech in Bastille square after he defeated the conservative president Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
"All I have really known is the right. I know nothing fundamental will change, but there will be more tolerance, more humanity, less stigmatisation, a more peaceful society," said 27-year-old teacher Julien Auffret.
Auffret was surrounded by a sea of joyful faces as people flocked to the square to await their new head of state.
The party atmosphere was boosted by sound system bass rippling through the crowd and spontaneous dance groups springing up around djembe players, as others waved Communist Party flags or drank beer.
Many young people wore T-shirts with "Casse-toi, pauvre con" ("Get stuffed, you stupid bastard") stickers, a reference to a notorious remark Sarkozy once made to a man who refused to shake his hand.
A flower in her hair and tears in her eyes, Catherine Cocagne said she wanted to savour the moment in Bastille.
"He has gone!" said the 47-year-old secretary. "It's brilliant, I'm over the moon. We're pinning all our hopes on Francois, but he'd better not get it wrong, because otherwise it will be the extremes that win next time."
Amin Fahmi, a Paris hotel worker originally from north Africa, joked that Hollande was a proper French name, not like Sarkozy, which is Hungarian.
He said he had been detained 20 times in Marseille just because he looked like a "foreigner" in France.
"He (Sarkozy) created difference, and division. That's going to change," he predicted.
Didier Stephan, an artist, 70, also said he was thrilled at the Socialist triumph but remained lucid as to the challenges faced by the new head of state in this time of economic crisis.
He said he wanted to believe in the candidate who presented himself as "normal", and who wants to tax the rich more and make the European Union ease austerity measures it imposed across Europe.
"On Europe, he is going to make them change," he said.
Lucile Jourdannaud, 20, a law student, voted for the first time on Sunday.
"Seeing the left get in is a source of much pride. I am overwhelmed with emotion. This is a bit like 1981 for our generation."
The emotion was shared in cities across France.
In the central square in the western city of Rennes, a banner was hung across the facade of an apartment block: "The left, Act II. Francois is back."
In Tulle, Hollande thanked his supporters for electing him president on Sunday and promised to be a leader to unite the whole country.
"On this May 6, the French have just chosen change in bearing me to the office of president," the 57-year-old candidate declared before a wildly cheering crowd.
Hollande is expected to take over power from Sarkozy on May 15.
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Monday, May 7th 2012
Deborah Pasmentier and Charles Onians
           


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