New French President Francois Hollande was sworn in as the country's first Socialist leader in nearly two decades at a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in central Paris on Tuesday morning.
Hollande began his five-year-term following a handover of power from Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative incumbent voters ousted earlier this month after only one term in office. Later in the day Hollande was scheduled to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a critical meeting on austerity and growth in Europe.
In addition to meeting the German leader, Hollande is also expected to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in the near future.
France's new president has a difficult week ahead of him. It remains to be seen who will become the country's next prime minister, as well as who the next cabinet ministers will be. Hollande was expected to perhaps announce his new cabinet later Tuesday. Hollande also must deal with upcoming parliamentary elections set to take place in June.
"I need a parliament that coincides with my policies," Hollande said Monday.
In the meantime, the most contested battle for a seat in parliament is expected to occur in the Pas-de-Calais district, where far-Right candidate Marine Le Pen is in a heated race with far-Left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Choosing a prime minster and parliamentary representatives is a delicate issue in France. Hollande's upcoming meetings with Merkel and Obama will also be put under the microscope as the world waits to see what type of approach the new French leader will adopt.
In his first presidential speech, Hollande promised to fight financial speculation and "open a new path" in Europe but acknowledged that he inherits huge government debt. He has pushed back against austerity measures championed by Germany amid Europe's debt crisis and wants government stimulus instead. Hollande also pledged to bring "dignity" to the presidential role, something voters felt that Sarkozy did not always do.
Guests at the ceremony included France's leftist political elite, France's chief rabbi, the head of an umbrella group of French Muslim organizations, the daughter of late President Francois Mitterrand's mistress and a host of cultural figures.
Hollande received the insignia of the Grand Croix from Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, who heads the prestigious Legion of Honor, and the necklace of the Great Master of the Order of the Legion of Honor. Each linked medallion of the necklace bears the name of a president, with Hollande's name recently added.
Sarkozy left the palace hand-in-hand with wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, had a last handshake on the palace steps with Hollande, and then was driven away. Former staffers gathered in the palace courtyard applauded loudly as Sarkozy left.