France begins voting for president

Other News Materials 6 May 2012 11:22 (UTC +04:00)

France began voting Sunday in the second and final round of the country's presidential election, with incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy battling to win re-election over the favourite, Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, DPA reported.

About 46 million people began voting at polling stations across the country from 8 am (0600 GMT). Voters in overseas French territories already made their choice on Saturday.

The winner will be announced after the polls close at 8 pm (1800 GMT).

Turnout was expected to be high after a polarizing campaign, in which the placid Hollande campaigned as Sarkozy's antithesis, appealing for unity while Sarkozy courted far-right voters.

Sarkozy held up his experience, saying that Hollande - who has never held a ministerial post - was unfit to lead the country at a time of crisis.

The election is being closely watched for its impact on the European Union and the euro. Hollande has caused rumblings by saying he plans to renegotiate the European fiscal compact signed by 25 leaders to add chapters on growth and employment.

Polls showed him ahead by between five and seven points, but Sarkozy predicted a "surprise." The unknown factor is the voters who supported right-wing Marine Le Pen and centrist candidate Francois Bayrou in the first round on April 22.

Le Pen came third and Bayrou came fifth among the 10 initial candidates. Le Pen said she would cast a blank vote. Bayrou has endorsed Hollande but polls show his supporters as being divided.