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France

Thousands storm Bastille for left's long-awaited party

Text by Ben MCPARTLAND , reporting from Place de la Bastille in Paris

Latest update : 2012-05-07

Jubilant supporters of François Hollande swarmed into the symbolic Place de la Bastille on Sunday night to celebrate the Socialist candidate's victory at the polls. It was a party they had waited a long time to hold.

The iconic Bastille square in Paris played host to an almighty party on Sunday as supporters of François Hollande celebrated his triumph in France's presidential election.

Tens of thousands of people descended on the symbolic rallying point for France’s left after his victory over the incumbent president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was announced at 8pm.

People of all ages, creeds and colours packed into to the Bastille to revel in the first victory for a left-wing candidate since François Mitterrand was re-elected to the Elysée Palace in 1988.

Fabien Montel, 30, told FRANCE 24: “Tonight is history in the making. It is not everyday you get to come to Place de La Bastille and see this.”

'Just as good' as 1981

Back in January, François Hollande had vowed to put young French people at the heart of his mandate and the country’s youth were out in force on Sunday.

Many would not have remembered the last time a Socialist victory was celebrated at the Bastille. But there were also those who did.

“In 1981 it was slightly different because the French left had never been in power before,” said Jean-Louis Renoir, a 55-year-old member of the Socialist Party.  “But even so, after going so long without a socialist president, tonight is just as good.”

“It is a night when you cannot just sit at home and watch on television. You have to be here to be here to see it,” he added.

Jean-Luc Porcedo, another veteran of past socialist victories, brought along his two sons Simon and Thomas so they could witness history in the making.

“I was here in 1981 when Mitterrand won and I wanted my sons to be here tonight to see this. The feeling of joy is exactly the same and this time it is not raining.

“We had to wait too long for another victory like this. We are happy for the future of our children and it is important that they are here to witness this. We now hope François Hollande will restore the values of the Republic.”

'Change Now'

The victorious candidate, who had spent the day in the central region of Corrèze, was treated to a rapturous reception as he took to the stage just after midnight. 

Shouting himself hoarse as so often during the campaign, he thanked "the people of France here united for allowing [him] to become the president of France”.

Flares were lit and bottles of champagne were popped as the hordes revelled in his triumph. Crowds swarmed over the Bastille monument to get a better view while others climbed on top of traffic lights.

Hollande had campaigned on a promise to bring “Change Now” and those who turned out to see his victory speech were looking forward to a brighter future.

“He represents social justice, solidarity, tolerance and modesty and that is what we hope to see now,” Jeannie Amsellem told FRANCE 24.

'Bye bye Sarkozy'

Many of those who descended on the Bastille were simply glad to see the back of Nicolas Sarkozy, who became the first president since Valéry Giscard D’Estaing in 1981 to be voted out of power.

His departure was celebrated by a group of women of African origin who danced and sang “Sarkozy dictator”. Others chanted “Bye bye Sarkozy” and other more derogatory words.

Lamia Bernard, 45, told FRANCE 24: “We have got rid of him! It’s fantastic. He only cared about the rich people, the rest of us, the real workers, were forgotten.”

Her husband Eric added: “Sarkozy was the worst president France has had. He insulted the people of this country.”

Another Hollande supporter Severin Dronet, 30 said: “I came to the Bastille not only to celebrate the victory of Hollande but also the departure of Sarkozy and the right who tried to take this country towards the extreme right.”

The scenes at la Bastille were a far cry from those at La Mutualite, on the other side of the river Seine, where supporters of Nicolas Sarkozy had gathered for the election result.

The tears and groans of disappointment among Sarkozy followers offered a stark contrast to the smiles, raised fists and cries of victory at the Bastille.

The left's victory party looked set to go on long into the night as another generation of French voters took their chance to celebrate the triumph of a socialist candidate.

Date created : 2012-05-07

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