French election: live report

While Hollande supporters continue to party at the Bastille, that's it from us on the Live Report, although AFP's coverage will continue into the night. A quick recap of today's events:

-- Francois Hollande has beaten Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential election to become the first Socialist president in France in almost 20 years. A final count gives him 51.67 percent of the votes.

-- He thanked the French people who had supported him but also looked to Europe amid concerns about the ongoing sovereign debt crisis. In his first words to supporters, he said "austerity can no longer be an option for Europe" while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has invited him to Berlin.

-- Outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy conceded defeat and indicated he will take a step back from frontline politics, though stopped short of saying he would retire. He told supporters: "I want to thank all the French for the honour they did me in choosing me to be president of our country for five years. I will never forget that honour." LIVE REPORT ENDS

2310 GMT: HOLLANDE GAINS 51,67% OF VOTES, ACCORDING TO COMPLETE RESULTS FROM MAINLAND FRANCE.

2208 GMT: Hollande hailed his victory as part of a movement rising in Europe against fiscal austerity, saying: "You are much more than a people who want change. You are already a movement that is rising across all of Europe and maybe the world."

2205 GMT: In his speech Hollande warned there is "lots to do in the coming months" but appealed to the electorate to "first give the president a majority".

His campaign team also urged voters earlier to give his Socialist Party a strong mandate in a June parliamentary election. Head of the campaign Pierre Moscovici said: "The French people did not want to elect a president who would then have no power.

"This president must tomorrow have a majority to govern," he said, calling on voters to "confirm and amplify" Hollande's victory in the two-round parliamentary vote on June 10 and 17.

2259 GMT: On stage after speech, Hollande waves smiling at huge crowd, claps along to music, joined again by his partner Valerie Trierweiler. He also kisses his former partner and the mother of his four children, Segolene Royal. She ran against Sarkozy for the presidency in 2007 but lost.

2254 GMT: He ends by saying: "Thank you thank you everybody.

"Be proud, be generous, be respectful be fully French citizens, be proud to be French citizens."

His speech is met by rapturous applause by the partying crowds while La Marseillaise -- French national anthem -- rings out.

2251 GMT: He says he wants to ensure his victory is not about "revenge or rejection", adding: "It will be a beautiful victory a great victory which raises us up and makes us happy, brings us together".

2249 GMT: He says he hopes to repair "years and years of injuries" over his next five years in office, evoking a "France of diversity, of unity".

"Thirty-one years later there is a successor to Francois Mitterand," he declares.

2245 GMT: Waving at the tens of thousands of supporters gathered in the square a hoarse sounding Hollande shouts: "I don't know if you can hear me well but I have heard you".

2242 GMT: HOLLANDE ARRIVES ON STAGE AT PLACE DE LA BASTILLE.

2241 GMT: In a telephone call to congratulate Hollande on his election victory, Obama "indicated that he looks forward to working closely with Mr Hollande and his government on a range of shared economic and security challenges," White House spokesman Jay Carney says in a statement.

2234 GMT: OBAMA CONGRATULATES HOLLANDE and invites him to the White House.

2227 GMT: As Hollande arrives at Bastille, financial markets in Asia have opened down on the election results in both France and Greece. At 7:00 am in Tokyo (2200 GMT Sunday), the euro was at $1.3022, down from $1.3082 on Friday at 2100 GMT in New York.

2222 GMT: Hundreds of people are now lining the streets as a motorcade carrying Hollande heads towards Bastille.

Ségolène Royal, Hollande's ex-partner and mother of his four children, has also appeared at the square as has former socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, according to reports.

2213 GMT: Hollande's presidential campaign has focused on the economy and education. He pledged to create 60,000 new teaching jobs over the next five years and slap a 75 percent top rate of tax on earnings over 1million euros. Now his fans are eagerly awaiting what he has to say as France's new president, while sceptics will be closely watching the man who has never before held national government office.

2206 GMT Hollande has arrived in Paris and is on his way to Place de la Bastille where he will address thousands of his supporters who are there are celebrating. The square is one of the city's best known landmarks. It was the location of the famous "Storming of the Bastille" during the French Revolution in 1789 when thousands of people broke into the prison there in a confrontation with the ancien regime monarchy.

2156 GMT: LATEST RESULTS -- With 91 percent of the ballots counted Hollande had 51.56 percent of the ballots and Sarkozy 48.44 percent.

According to the interior ministry figures, 16.56 million voters backed Hollande, 15.56 million Sarkozy and two million cast blank or spoiled ballots.

2152 GMT: The European press has hailed Hollande's victory as a turning point for Europe, but warned of the "mammoth" challenges ahead.

"Au revoir President Bling Bling!" headlines London's conservative tabloid Daily Mail, while German papers ask what Sarkozy's defeat will mean to Germany's ties with France.

Hollande's victory is "a turning point, especially for Angela Merkel," Financial Times Deutschland says, noting: "Francois Hollande, whom the chancellor wanted to avoid at all costs, has become president in place of her favourite.

"How unpleasant for Merkel. Not so much because Hollande would threaten the rescue of the euro. But because his demand to complement the EU fiscal pact with growth elements strikes at the chancellor's supremacy in Europe."

2140 GMT: More on that phone call from Merkel, who had openly backed Sarkozy during the presidential campaign but quickly congratulated his winning rival.

"The chancellor invited the French president-elect Hollande to come to Berlin as soon as possible after his inauguration," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a short statement following a phone call between the pair. "Both agreed how important close Franco-German relations were and assured each other that they would strive for good and trusting cooperation."

Hollande's campaign manager Pierre Moscovici says the new president will take up the invitation "quickly after his inauguration".

2133 GMT: Martine Aubry has been speaking at the Place de la Bastille, where Hollande is due to appear later, to thunderous applause. A young person in the crowd says: "I hope she will be prime minister."

Hollande has previously pledged to tackle sexism in French politics and vowed to put an equal number of men and women in his cabinet. Aubry has been widely tipped to become prime minister or at the least to take a ministry. France has had only one female prime minister ever -- Edith Cresson, who served for less than a year.

2120 GMT: French commentators are now turning to the question of what a Hollande government might look like. Martine Aubry, First Secretary of the Socialist Party, is the first choice of voters on the left for the position of Prime Minister, according to two polls published Sunday by Ipsos/Logica Business Consulting, and another by OpinionWay.

According to the latter -- a survey conducted Sunday among those who voted Hollande -- 22 percent back Aubry while 14 percent want Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Left Front candidate who came fourth in the first round of votes. Socialist Party lawmaker Jean-Marc Ayrault had the support of 12 percent, with the centrist François Bayrou, who came fifth on April 22, supported by 11 percent and PS member Manuel Valls supported by 11 percent.

2059 GMT: AFP's Deborah Pasmentier reports that tens of thousands of people have gathered at Paris's Place de la Bastille awaiting Hollande's arrival from Tulle.

Champagne, roses and tears of joy are the order of the night.Some flower sellers nearby have even stayed open late to sell roses -- the socialist symbol -- to those celebrating.

One reveller, Catherine Cocagne, wanted to savour the moment. "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."

Lucile Jourdannaud, 20, a law student voting for the first time, added: "Seeing the left get in is a source of much pride. I am overwhelmed with emotion." Referring to the election of France's last Socialist president, Francois Mitterand, she adds: "This is a bit like 1981 for our generation."

2054 GMT: MERKEL CALLS HOLLANDE and invites him to Berlin, according to an aide of the president elect.

2050 GMT: LATEST RESULTS -- With 78 percent of the ballots counted, Hollande has 51.1 percent of the votes and Sarkozy 48.9 percent, a slightly narrower margin than the polling institute estimates reported earlier.

According to interior ministry figures, 14 million voters backed Hollande and 13.4 million Sarkozy, while 1.8 million cast blank or spoiled ballots and 6.7 million stayed away -- an abstention rate of 18.75 percent. Turnout was high by recent historical standards -- higher than in 2002, but lower than in 2007.

The final 22 percent of ballots remaining to be counted come from Paris and the surrounding Ile-de-France region, where both candidates have pools of support but where Hollande is expected to finish the stronger.

2045 GMT: British Prime Minister David Cameron is among the first to call Hollande to congratulate him. He vows to work with the Socialist leader to strengthen the Franco-British relationship.

"The Prime Minister called President-Elect Hollande this evening and congratulated him on his victory," says a spokesman from Cameron's Downing Street office. "They both look forward to working very closely together in the future and building on the very close relationship that already exists between the UK and France."

2038 GMT: More on the statement from European Commission chief Barroso. In it he says: "On a personal note and in the name of the European Commission, I warmly congratulate Francois Hollande on this important victory. I know I can count on the convictions and personal commitment of Francois Hollande to push European integration forward.

"We clearly have a common objective: relaunching the European economy to generate durable growth. We must now transform these aspirations into concrete actions."

2033 GMT: Sarkozy has become the 11th European leader to fall since the start of the economic crisis, while a win for Hollande has bucked the European trend which has seen many countries veer to the right in recent years.

The French runoff has coincided with elections in Greece where voters dealt a blow to eurozone hopes that Athens will stick to its austerity commitments as parties opposing more cuts, including neo-Nazis, won almost 60-percent support.

2015: Back in the UMP camp, Sarkozy has left the Mutualité conference centre where he had been addressing supporters and returned home.

The room where UMP supporters had been gathered is now closed, while outside around a dozen people have been waiting, without really knowing what for, reports AFP's Lucile. Among them, psychologist Véronique Duviard speaks of "five mediocre years" to come. "There will be lots of hopes but few realisations," she predicts.

2010 GMT: LATEST RESULTS: The latest results published show Hollande on 51.81 percent of the votes, based on three quarters of the ballots counted.

2006 GMT: Hollande's speech finished, with him crying: "I AM AT THE SERVICE OF FRANCE!" The president elect is now expected to fly to Paris, to address supporters at the Place de la Bastille. He is expected to be sworn in as president by May 15.

2004 GMT: European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has congratulated Hollande on his "important victory" and said he shares his goal to jumpstart Europe's economy. Hollande said in his speech that "austerity can no longer be the only option" for Europe.

Observers will be watching keenly to see how the international financial markets react to Hollande's election on Monday morning.

2000 GMT: "Europe is watching us," Hollande continued. "I am sure that when the result was announced, in many European countries there was relief, hope and the notion that finally austerity can no longer be the only option.

"And this is the mission that is now mine -- to give the European project a dimension of growth, employment, prosperity, in short, a future. This is what I will say as soon as possible to our European partners and first of all to Germany, in the name of the friendship that links us and in the name of our shared responsibility."

"We are not just any country on the planet, just any nation in the world, we are France."

1954 GMT: Hollande declares: "I love my country, I love the French people"

He thanks voters in his department of Correze, and in the city of Tulle, the town where he was mayor, saying: "I owe you everything . You have always given me your vote and have once again in this election."

He adds: "I am mobilised to change. This is my duty, to serve the Republic, serve France, serve the causes, the values that I have been expressing in my campaign."

1945 GMT: More detail from that speech by Francois Hollande. He said he wanted to be judged on how well he advanced fairness in society and the fate of the young, many of whom face unemployment and exclusion. "It is the French dream that I will strive to make whole during the mandate that has just been given me," he said.

1941 GMT: Finishing his speech, a beaming Hollande holds his hands in the air in victory and shakes hands with audience members. He waves a bunch of red roses in the air and smiles at beaming supporters. His companion Valerie Trierweiler joins him on stage and they embrace. A musical group with accordion and clarinet players joins them on stage.

1938 GMT: "AUSTERITY CAN NO LONGER BE ONLY OPTION" FOR EUROPE, HOLLANDE SAYS

1937 GMT: Meanwhile back in Paris, Hollande supporters have fallen quiet as they listen to his speech via big screens, with enthusiastic interjections of support.

1932 GMT: Hollande is speaking in Tulle, his hometown in south central France, to a crowd of flag-waving, cheering supporters. "On this May 6, the French have just chosen change in bearing me to the office of president," he said.

1930 GMT: HOLLANDE SAYS: "FRANCE CHOSE CHANGE IN ELECTING ME PRESIDENT"

1923 GMT: Hollande's former partner Segolene Royal, who ran against Sarkozy unsuccessfully in 2007, has sent her congratulations. She told France 2 television of her "deep joy" and said that "the French people can put their trust in him." The couple's son Thomas, a 27-year-old lawyer, was seen with tears of joy in his eyes after the victory.

1920 GMT: Hollande himself, the man of the moment after becoming the first Socialist president of France for nearly two decades, is thought to be still in Tulle, his south central heartland where he voted earlier, writing his speech.

1915 GMT: Hollande is expected to speak at Place de la Bastille, where thousands of supporters have gathered to celebrate, later on this evening. Down there at the moment, French flags are flying, some revellers are trying to climb the July Column, the monument to France's 1830 Revolution which stand in the middle. "Sarko's finished!", "Hollande president!" and "We won, we won!" are among the shouts coming from the crowd.

1908 GMT: Germany's foreign minister Guido Westerwelle hails Hollande's win as an "historic event," vowing a "close partnership" between the two nations. "I have no doubt that we will rise to our common challenges," he tells reporters, adding: "We will work together on a growth pact".

The election results have been closely watched across Europe, with the future French president sure to influence the course of action in tackling the ongoing debt crisis. Hollande had said he wants to renegotiate the European fiscal pact and pursue pro-growth strategies.

Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel had backed Sarkozy for a second term.

1900 GMT: Crowds gathering at Place de la Bastille and other Paris landmarks carrying bottles of champagne, with renditions of French national anthem "La Marseillaise" ringing out. The party seems to be only just beginning, reports AFP's Sabine Pradella.

UMP supporters meanwhile are deeply disappointed. A gloomy-looking 20-year-old, Jean-Francois, says Sarkozy had not been given enough credit in France: "The French people haven't recognised what he did -- making sure we avoided the situation Greece is in today." His friend Thomas adds: "Wish Hollande lots of luck because he will need it and, despite everything, we love our country."

1857 GMT: Hollande's partner Valerie Trierweiler, a political journalist with current affairs magazine Paris Match, posts on Twitter: "Quite simply proud to accompany the new president of the republic and also always happy to share Francois' life."

1855 GMT: Hundreds of Socialist activists have left party HQ and are walking victoriously past Paris landmarks including parliament and towards the Place de la Concorde, accompanied by the sound of tooting car horns. They seem to be heading for the Place de la Bastille, reports AFP's Jean-Philippe Chognot.

1849 GMT: Sarkozy continues: "I want to thank all the French for the honour they did me in choosing me to be president of our country for five years. I will never forget that honour." The crowd scream "Nicolas! Nicolas!"

The UMP leader, who had previously said he would exit politics if defeated, suggests he will take a step back from frontline politics, but stops short of confirming his retirement.

"In this new era, I will remain one of you, but my place will no longer be the same. My engagement with the life of my country will now be different, but time will never strain the bonds between us," he tells supporters.

1842 GMT: Sarkozy says he wishes "good luck" to Hollande, who he has just called to congratulate.

"I want to wish him good luck amid challenging times," he tells crowds of supporters at the Mutualité conference centre in Paris who gave him a standing ovation.

The outgoing president, who's campaign slogan has been "A Strong France", told supporters: "There is something much stronger the than us: that's our country, that's our homeland,that's France."

1832 GMT: Delivering a speech to supporters Sarkozy says: "The French people have made their choice... Francois Hollande is the president of France and he must be respected.

1827 GMT: SARKOZY CONCEDES DEFEAT

1825 GMT: Hollande's decision to paint himself as a humble "Mr Normal" during the election campaign seems to have paid off. By contrast with Sarkozy's "bling bling" reputation, Hollande is seen as a scooter-riding regular guy.

But questions remain about his experience -- although he led the Socialists for 11 years, he is perhaps best known abroad as the former partner of Segolene Royal, who stood against Sarkozy in 2007's elections. He is sometimes nicknamed "Flanby" after a wobbly, bland pudding.

1820 GMT: Devastated Sarkozy supporters gathered at the Mutualité conference centre in Paris are left speechless, AFP's Lucile Malandain reports. After a few moments, on hearing initial results, the room broke out into a chorus of "Merci Sarkozy! Merci Sarkozy".

Sarkozy looks to have become the first French president since Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in 1981 not to win a second term.

1810 GMT: A defeated Sarkozy urges his right-wing UMP party to remain united after, but says he will not lead it into June's parliamentary elections.

"Stay together. We must win the battle of the legislatives. I will not lead that campaign," he tells senior party figures, reading them a draft of his concession speech, according to political sources.

1810 GMT: Jubilant scenes at Socialist HQ as polling stations close -- hugs, tears, applause among the hundreds of people massed outside, according to AFP's Laure Brumont.

1808 GMT: Estimates based on ballot samples say Hollande took between 51.8 percent and 52 percent of the vote, issuing a humiliating defeat to Sarkozy.

1803 GMT: INITIAL ESTIMATES SAY HOLLANDE WINS

1800 GMT: POLLING STATIONS CLOSE.

1757 GMT: Anticipation is building across France now as the last of the polling stations prepare to close at 1800 GMT, when early results will be announced.

1744 GMT: Since his defeat to Hollande in the first round Sarkozy has lunged to the right to try to woo the 6.4 million voters who backed Le Pen on April 22, ramping up the rhetoric on immigration, border control and national identity.

Today's results will hinge on whether he has succeeded on winning over National Front voters, without alienating traditional conservatives. But he will need to win over a large majority of Le Pen voters to swing the vote, as well as a large number of those who voted for MoDEM centrist Francois Bayrou in the first round. Bayrou for his part has given his vote to Hollande, saying he was disgusted by Sarkozy's bid to attract the extreme right.

1732 GMT: Elsewhere in France, party faithful from the two sides are also gathering. At the Socialist Party offices in Marseille, screens are set up inside and out for nail-biting supporters to watch results unfold, AFP's Laure Brumont reports.

The southern region, a traditional stronghold of the far right, has been a key battle ground for both parties after Marine Le Pen of the National Front won 17.9 percent of the vote in the first round.

1715 GMT: At the rue Solferino, where a march by Socialist Party supporters is getting under way, crowds are arriving with roses in hand -- the young and the not so young, reports AFP's Ambre Tosunoglu. There's "an unbelievable crowd", she says "with activists smiling and shouting", while traffic in adjacent roads has ground to a halt.

1652 GMT: Sarkozy's UMP supporters are packing out La Maison de la Mutualité, a conference centre in Paris, AFP's Lucile Malandain reports. Party activists are bunched in front of a stage decked out with two giant screens. An optimistic burst of "Sarko président, Sarko président!" rings out from flag-waving supporters.

1633 GMT: The latest turnout figures show participation has been high but not at record levels so far. With three hours to go turnout hit 71.96 percent at 17:00 local time (1500 GMT), according to the interior ministry.

Turnout was at 70.59 percent at the same time in the first round and 75.11 percent at the same moment in the run-off vote five years ago.

Polling firm IFOP projected that turnout would reach 81.5 percent by the end of voting at 1800 GMT, down slightly from 83.97 percent in 2007.

1622 GTM: AFP's Sabine Pradella says crowds are already gathering at the Socialist Party's headquarters in Paris's Rue de Solferino. Some activists, clustered behind barriers with flags, have been unable to stop themselves shouting out hopefully: "We have won."

The party will have good cause to celebrate if Hollande does win. He would be the first socialist president to lead France since François Mitterand retired in 1995.

1609 GMT: AFP's Lucile Malandain tells us that supporters of Sarkozy's UMP have started filling up a conference centre in Paris's Latin Quarter to await results.

Some TV crews have started gathering at the Place de la Concorde, where celebrations were held when Sarkozy won the presidency in 2007, but there is little sign of Sarkozy supporters gathering there yet.

Despite his performance in the first round, Sarkozy has remained defiant, insisting it's not over yet.

1606 GMT: Hollande enters the presidential run-off having won 28.63 percent of the vote in the first round on April 22, compared with 27.18 percent for Sarkozy.

AFP's Samir Tounsi is at Paris's Place de la Bastille which could be the place where Francois Hollande celebrates victory if he wins. He says barriers have been installed in the area and that traffic is already being diverted away from the square.

1557 GMT: The ban against reporting polls and partial results before polling stations close was established by law in France in 1977. But is it tenable in the modern media age?

In round one of this election results from the overseas territories appeared online before the cut-off. And in the last French election of 2007 some bloggers threatened to leak results before the deadline, but in the end did not.

Certainly most media -- including AFP -- will not be risking the 75,000 euro fine they could incur by breaching the rule.

1548 GMT: As voting enters its final stages, AFP reporters will be bringing us reactions from the French electorate and a glimpse of the mounting tensions at the headquarters of the two rival parties.

But all reporting of opinion polls or early indications of results is banned under French law until after polls close completely at 8pm local time.

1542 GMT: In mainland France polling stations will be open until 18:00 local time in most towns and villages, and until 19:00 or 20:00 in most cities.

1535 GMT: Voting in France's overseas territories got under way Saturday, to account for time differences. Results will be announced along with those from mainland France from 20:00 CEST.

In Guadeloupe participation was up nine percent on the first round at 61.84 percent -- though this is not as strong as in the second round of 2007 when it was 65.48 percent.

1525 GMT: The two contenders have already cast their own votes this morning -- Sarkozy with his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in the affluent 16th arrondissement of Paris, and Hollande with girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler in Tulle, Corrèze, the area in south central France where he has been a lawmaker since 1997.

1510 GMT: Voters have already turned out in droves since polling began at 8am local time. Despite rain showers and grey skies, turnout is expected to be around 80 percent.

Four hours after polling began just over 30 percent of the electorate had voted.

WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT on the second round of the French presidential elections.

Polling in France is now entering its final straight as voters make their choice: a vote for centre-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, of the UMP party, or his challenger, Socialist Party (PS) candidate François Hollande. A choice which will set the course of French politics for the next five years

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