Sarkozy closes on Hollande as France elects President
FRANCE: France goes to the polls Sunday with frontrunner Francois
Hollande hoping voters will reject Nicolas Sarkozy's record in office
and make him the country's first Socialist president since 1995.
France's 46 million voters were to head to polling stations from 0600
GMT after a bruising campaign that pit energetic right-winger Sarkozy
against Hollande, who presented himself as a consensus builder.
The first polls opened in overseas territories on Saturday and the
last polls were to close in France, a nuclear-armed permanent member of
the UN Security Council and the eurozone's second largest economy, at
1800 GMT. Political speeches and new opinion polls have been banned
since a particularly ferocious campaign ended on Friday night, but the
last poll published ahead of the deadline forecast a 52-48 percent win
for Hollande. The Ifop-Fiducial poll said Sarkozy has clawed back six
percentage points of voter intentions since the end of last week as he
went all-out to enchant those who voted for far-right candidate Marine
Le Pen in the first round.
With the gap the narrowest since campaigning began, Sarkozy has vowed
a surprise, while Hollande has cautioned against assuming he will be
France's first Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand left office
Voter turnout in the first round was high at around 80 percent and
the run-off candidates, both aged 57, have been calling on citizens not
to stay at home as every vote counts.