Story highlights

Winner says he wants to give youth a better life

Martine Aubry concedes to Francois Hollande

Socialists pick candidate to oppose Nicolas Sarkozy for president

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was expected to be a candidate, but was felled by sex charges

(CNN) —  

France’s Socialist Party, which hasn’t won the presidency in more than 20 years, picked longtime politician Francois Hollande to try to unseat incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in next spring’s elections.

Hollande defeated Martine Aubry in Sunday’s runoff election. The former party leader thanked more than 2 million voters and pledged to bring new vitality to the country.

“I want to give young people a better life,” he told CNN affiliate BFM-TV.

Hollande had 56.85.% of the vote and Aubry 43.15% with 2.5 million votes counted. Final results were to be posted by Monday.

“The Socialist primaries have made Mr. Hollande more legitimate and stronger to fight against the right,” Aubry said.

The last Socialist elected president was Francois Mitterrand, who served from 1981 to 1995. Hollande served as an adviser to Mitterrand.

Hollande led the Socialist Party from 1997 to 2008. He is president of the General Council of Correze. Correze is a department in south central France.

Hollande favored the European Constitution, which defines the powers of the European Union.

Aubry, mayor of the northern city of Lille, succeeded Hollande as party chief. She was the architect of universal health care coverage for low-income citizens and served as labor minister in the early 1990s. Aubry also pushed the 35-hour work-week reform. She’s the daughter of well-known political leader Jacques Delors.

Hollande and Aubry squared off after former favorite Dominique Strauss-Kahn was felled by accusations of attempted rape in both the United States and France. Prosecutors in New York dropped charges against him, and Paris prosecutors said last week they lacked sufficient evidence to file charges. However, the timing of the scandals doomed his hopes of running for president in 2012.

Hollande came in first in last week’s party primaries, with 39%, but had to go to a second round against current party chair Aubry, who got 30%, because no candidate got an overall majority.

More than 2.5 million people voted in the first round of primaries, thanks to new rules about who was eligible to vote.

The big surprise in the first round was Arnaud Montebourg, the anti-globalization candidate, who came in third with 17% of the vote.

The first round of French presidential elections will be held April 22 with a second round on May 6 if necessary.

CNN’s Naima Benallal contributed to this report.