(JTA) — Francois Hollande became the first Socialist president of France in nearly two decades, defeating incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.
With half the votes counted nationwide, Hollande was leading Sarkozy, 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent. Sarkozy, the center-left candidate, was considered the favored choice among French Jews.
Sarkozy, of the Union for a Popular Movement party, conceded shortly after the polls closed. He wished his successor luck in handling difficult times in France and in Europe.
“Francois Hollande is the president of the republic; he must be respected," Sarkozy said.
Polls had showed Hollande finishing with about 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Sarkozy, the first French president to lose re-election in 30 years.
Hollande is France’s first Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand, who served from 1981 to 1995.
Sarkozy is the ninth European leader to be ousted since the start of the continent’s debt crisis, Bloomberg reported.