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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
Many Europeans are not entirely sure what to make of the newly-elected president of France.
GREENE: The other day, Britain's Economist ran a cover headline calling Francois Hollande, quote, "rather dangerous." He does not have a close relationship with German's chancellor, who has been working with France in the struggle against Europe's debt crisis.
INSKEEP: But if Europeans are uncertain about the new socialist president, his supporters are sure what they think: He is not the polarizing figure who now leaves office, Nicolas Sarkozy.
Here's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The crowd gathered in the streets outside the Paris Socialist Party headquarters went wild when the election results flashed up on giant television screens at 8 PM Sunday evening.
(SOUNDBITE OF SHOUTS, CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
BEARDSLEY: People here say Sarkozy divided the French during his five years in office. The euphoria seems to be as much about getting rid of Sarkozy as electing Hollande. Hugo Kolan(ph) says Sarkozy damaged France.
HUGO KOLAN: (Through Translator) We hope we can repair France's image and what it stands for, like human rights, liberty, fraternity, equality. Sarkozy trashed all those ideals. But starting tonight, things are going to change.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAR HORN AND PEOPLE CHANTING)
BEARDSLEY: As champagne corks popped, people set out on foot for the Bastille, where the new president was to address the nation. The crowd kept growing as it wound its way through the city. People sang and chanted Sarkozy, se fini, down Boulevard Saint Germain, on to St. Michel and passed Notre Dame Cathedral. People gathered on balconies and hanging out apartment windows yelled encouragement.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAR HORNS BEEPING)
BEARDSLEY: Drivers beeped. The whole city seemed to explode with joy over Hollande. Well, not everyone.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Just inside of Ile de la Cite, a crowd of flag-waving Sarkozy supporters came out of a side street. They called the Hollande supporters communists and welfare addicts. Some arguing broke out.
(SOUNDBITE OF SHOUTING VOICES)
PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Sarkozy conceded early in the evening, telling his disappointed followers that the future of the country was more important than any one person. Let's set a good example, he said. We love France. Sarkozy wished Hollande good luck in the difficult times ahead.
The mild and affable Hollande inherits a country deep in debt and divided over how to integrate immigrants while preserving its national identity. Hollande says he plans to renegotiate a European austerity pact put in place by Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and his first trip abroad as president will be to Germany.
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BEARDSLEY: At the Bastille, the crowd swelled to hundreds of thousands. Among the revelers were three attorneys discussing Hollande's upcoming presidency.
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JEAN MARLOWE: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: The French-German partnership is still a top priority. It's very important for Europe, and Hollande is very pro-European, says Jean Marlowe(ph). His colleagues agree. Hollande's responsible, they say. He'll balance the budget, and his administration will be fair. Al three men say it was the constant feeling of injustice with Sarkozy that was so unbearable.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Vive la France. (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: All of a sudden, a few ecstatic young men wrapped in Moroccan and Tunisian flags come running up at the side of a microphone. They say they're Muslim, but above all French. Immigrants make this country, they say. Sarkozy never understood that. Vive la France and vive Hollande.
There's almost the feeling that France has been liberated. Throughout this campaign, Hollande spoke of bringing people together, of ending the divisions. He clearly did that Sunday night.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PRESIDENT-ELECT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE: (Foreign language spoken)
BEARDSLEY: It was near midnight by the time the new president spoke. The crowd at the Bastille hung on his every word.
HOLLANDE: (Through Translator) I want to tell you how proud I am to be the president of every citizen, equal under law, and how proud I am of this France: diverse, but unified, and together tonight.
BEARDSLEY: But that unity will soon be put to the test, as Hollande takes on France's monumental economic problems.
Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.