France looked set to crown Francois Hollande as its first Socialist president in nearly two decades in an election on Sunday, marking a shift to the left at the heart of Europe and heralding a fight back against German-led austerity.
Conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, swamped by anger at a surge in unemployment during his five-year term, faced being the 11th euro zone leader to be swept from power by the economic crisis after final opinion polls placed Hollande between four and eight points ahead.
A wide margin of victory would give Hollande greater authority to pursue his promise to temper unpopular German-led austerity, which sparked protests across southern Europe last week, and refocusing economic policy on fostering growth.
In a decisive day for the recession-hit single currency area, Greece's mainstream political parties were punished in a parliamentary election for rising economic misery due to IMF-imposed spending cuts, exit polls showed. Read more......