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France: Hollande is sworn in as President

He is the first Socialist to hold the role in twenty years.

Francois Hollande was sworn in today, making him the first Socialist President of France in twenty years.

It was a low key ceremony, ahead of crisis talks with Angela Merkel in Germany later today. He is expected to press the German Chancellor to temper the austerity drive that has so far been the policy of the two countries. The latest figures suggest that the French economy did not grow in the last quarter, prompting concerns that it may slide into recession.

The ceremony took place in the Elysee courtyard, with only 30 or so private guests to accompany the public officials at the event. He shook hand with Nicholas Sarkozy, the outgoing President, and was presented with the chain of office, a gold collar engraved with the names of France's Fifth Republic Presidents. After the ceremony, he retired with Sarkozy for a traditional private meeting, where nuclear codes are handed over.

It was a deliberate marked contrast to the style that saw Sarkozy nicknamed “President Bling Bling”. At his ceremony marking the beginning of his term five years ago Sarkozy chose to put his wife and children centre stage, something that drew criticism from commentators, who objected to the blurring of public and private life.

In his first speech as President, Hollande promised a term of justice and fairness. He called for a united France, a response to the growth of extreme right wing groups in the first round of the Presidential elections.

Dubbed “Mr. Normal”, Hollande will now visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before a lunch with former Socialist prime ministers. Later on today he will name his prime minister. The favourite is Jean-Marc Ayrault, head of the Socialist group in parliament, mayor of Nantes, and a German expert.