François Hollande has won power in France, turning the tide on a rightwards and xenophobic lurch in European politics and vowing to transform Europe's handling of the economic crisis by fighting back against German-led austerity measures.
The 57-year-old rural MP and self-styled Mr Normal, a moderate social democrat from the centre of the Socialist party, is France's first leftwing president in almost 20 years. Projections from early counts, released by French TV, put his score at 51.9%.
His emphatic victory is a boost to the left in a continent that has gradually swung rightwards since the economic crisis broke four years ago.
Nicolas Sarkozy, defeated after one term in office, became the 11th European leader to lose power since the economic crisis in 2008.
The defeat of the most unpopular French president ever to run for re-election was not simply the result of the global financial crisis or eurozone debt turmoil. It was also down to the intense public dislike of the man viewed by many as the "president of the rich" who had swept to victory in 2007 with a huge mandate to change France. The majority of French people felt he had failed to deliver on his promises, and he was criticised for his ostentatious display of wealth, favouring the rich and leaving behind over 2.8 million unemployed. Political analysts said anti-Sarkozy sentiment had become a cultural phenomenon in France.
Turnout was high in the election - The Guardian reports it was 80%.
AFP puts some perspective on Sarkozy:
PARIS — Nicolas Sarkozy's defeat on Sunday marked the end of a five-year presidency during which he divided a France that had put its hopes in him to break with a history of timid government complacency.
Never has a French president been so disliked, as much for his personal style as for his austere deficit-busting policies, and the right-wing leader vowed months ago to quit politics if defeated.
At the height of his powers, he was the most popular president since General Charles de Gaulle.
"I have no right to disappoint," he said. But disappoint he did. First with his overbearing manner and then through his actions.
The first faux pas came on the very evening of his election, when he feted his victory in fine style in the glitzy Paris eatery Fouquet's with some of France's richest people, setting the seal on an image of tasteless excess.
One of his worst decisions was to allow his son Jean, a 23-year-old local councillor who had not yet graduated college, to try to take charge of the powerful public development agency in the La Defense business district.
He also struggled with the 2008 credit crunch and the subsequent financial crises.
Sarkozy tried to rise to the occasion as a global statesman, staging crisis summit after crisis summit, but his high-rolling Rolex and Ray-Ban image sat ill with an age of austerity, and French voters turned their backs on him.
"The most important factor is the way in which he vulgarised politics and lowered the status of the presidential office for his own ends," said political scientist Stephane Rozes of the Cap Institute.
Chirac was never happier than when greeting farmers, tasting food and admiring prize cattle at the Paris agricultural show. Sarkozy was famously filmed there telling a grumpy bystander: "Get stuffed, you stupid bastard."
His supporters point to the reforms that he managed to push past a dubious parliament and public -- an unpopular increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62 and a measure to ensure the independence of universities.
He had an impact on the international stage, helping negotiate an end to Russia's drive into Georgia and leading the NATO intervention that helped Libyan rebels topple Moamer Kadhafi.
Those most disappointed are those who believed in his slogan "work more to earn more" -- unemployment is approaching 10 percent and he did not live up to his promises to tackle tax loopholes and discrimination.
And of course there was his embrace of fascism:
He shocked some by pushing far-right themes, increasingly so between the April 22 first round presidential election and the run-off as he sought to claw back votes from the National Front.
He linked crime to immigration, expelled EU citizens of Roma descent and launched a debate on the threat Islam supposedly poses to French national identity
Good riddance to Sarkozy.