FRANCE A FALL PREVIEW: Most polls show Hollande beating Sarkozy in a runoff.

FRANKFURT (MarketWatch) — French voters headed to the polls Sunday to cast ballots in the first round of the country’s presidential elections. The French Interior Ministry said 28.3% of France’s more than 44 million eligible voters had cast ballots by midday, according to cable news channel France 24. Polls remain open until 6 p.m. local time, or noon Eastern) in most areas and until 8 p.m. local time in large cities. President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist challenger Francois Hollande are expected to emerge from the first-round vote to face each other in a head-to-head runoff on May 6. Most polls show Hollande beating Sarkozy in a runoff.

(Reuters) – French voters headed to the polls on Sunday in round one of a presidential ballot, with economic despair on course to make Nicolas Sarkozy the first president to lose a fight for re-election in more than 30 years.

In a contest driven as much by a dislike of Sarkozy’s showy style and his failure to bring down unemployment as by policy differences, Sarkozy and his Socialist rival Francois Hollande are pegged to beat eight other candidates to go through to a May 6 runoff, where polls give Hollande a double-digit lead.

Hollande, 57, promises less drastic spending cuts than Sarkozy and wants higher taxes on the wealthy to fund state-aided job creation, in particular a 75 percent upper tax rate on income above 1 million euros ($1.32 million).

He would be only France’s second left-wing leader since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958, and its first since Francois Mitterrand, who beat incumbent Valery Giscard-d’Estaing in 1981.

He voted early on Sunday in Tulle, a town in central France where he serves as the head of local government for the surrounding rural Correze region.

“Here’s hoping,” he whispered in the ear of an old lady. His partner, journalist Valerie Trierweiler, admitted to hordes of journalists she was “super-stressed”.


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After a bitter campaign season that raged amid the backdrop of the eurozone crisis, voters across France are casting their ballot Sunday in the first round of the 2012 French presidential election.

An estimated 44.5 million eligible French voters are choosing between 10 candidates, including incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, Socialist Party candidate François Hollande and extreme right National Front party chief, Marine Le Pen.

Polls open at 8am local time Sunday across mainland France following a one day break from campaigning that began at midnight Friday.

Voting began Saturday for French citizens living in the Americas as well as in France’s far-flung overseas territories — islands in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans — where 882,000 French citizens enjoy full voting rights.


(Reuters) – French voters voiced disillusionment on Saturday at a campaign that many said ignored the country’s real problems, on the eve of a first-round vote expected to send President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist rival Francois Hollande to a runoff next month.

A day ahead of voting in mainland France, the first ballots were cast in overseas territories, from French Guiana on the northern shores of South America to the Pacific islands of Polynesia.

In France, the presidential campaign largely disappeared from the airwaves as the 10 candidates observed a one-day blackout imposed by law from midnight on Friday.

Final polls showed Hollande narrowly ahead of conservative Sarkozy for Sunday’s first round and comfortably winning the May 6 runoff to become France’s first Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995.

The prospect of record abstention loomed over Sunday’s ballot, with many people complaining that none of the candidates appealed to them.

Under the banner “They Don’t Represent Us”, hundreds of young demonstrators marched through Paris.


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