Socialist Francois Hollande has defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in France's presidential election, carting away 52 per cent of votes cast in Sunday's run-off, against Sarkozy's 48 per cent.
In a televised speech to his supporters, Sarkozy conceded defeat to Hollande:
"France has a new president. Francois Hollande is the new presdient of France he must be respected...There is something bigger than the two of us, and that is France. Today I feel so much love for the French people more than when I first took office five years ago."
He further told his supporter: "I bear full responsibility for defeat."
During his campaign, Sarkozy said he would leave politics if he lost the election.
It is only the second time an incumbent president has failed to win re-election since the start of France's Fifth Republic in 1958. The last was Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who lost to socialist Francois Mitterrand in 1981. Mr Mitterrand had two terms in office until 1995.
France has not had a Socialist president for the past 17 years, since the late Francois Mitterand.
The new president is expected to be inaugurated later this month. A parliamentary election is due in June.
In his acceptance speech, Hollande promised to bring change to France. He congratulated Sarkozy for having "led France for five years" adding that "he deserves our respect".