Francois Hollande by francoiw Hollande flickr
The Socialist candidate, although making clear that hard times lie ahead, promised to apportion out austerity with a more even hand, including stimulus for economic growth alongside debt reduction. In one telling argument, he charged Sarkozy with protecting the rich by limiting upper-tier tax rates and said, if elected, he would impose a 75 percent rate on all earnings above $1.3 million a year to finance more help for the poor.
In what was an often ill-tempered campaign, Sarkozy was forced to veer even further to the right after the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, president of the Front National, picked up nearly 18% of votes -- about 6.4 million ballots -- in the first-round vote. Sarkozy needed to pick up most of this support to win.
Just days before the runoff, however, Le Pen told supporters she would be casting a "blank vote" as the two candidates were "Siamese twins," neither of whom she could support, and advised her followers to "vote with your conscience."
The killer blow to Sarkozy's hopes came last week, when centrist candidate FranÃ§ois Bayrou told his voters that he would support Hollande, a decision that Sarkozy's ruling right-of-center party described as a "betrayal." Bayrou said he was dismayed by Sarkozy's wooing of the far-right.