PARIS – Voting began Sunday in the final round of the French presidential
election, in which forty-five million French citizens will choose their leader for the next
The vote follows seven months of a very hard campaign between
incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, of the right-wing UMP party, and socialist
challenger François Hollande. The two men bested eight other candidates in the
first round on April 22.
The finalists continued to campaign after the
first round, intensifying their activity on May Day and participating in a
three-hour face-to-face television debate last week that was watched live by 22
Sarkozy and Hollande battled until the end, holding rallies on
Friday hours before the official end of the campaign at
Hollande will vote Sunday in the central town of Tulle, with
Sarkozy voting in Paris’s 16th arrondissement, where he lives with his wife,
Carla Bruni, and their baby daughter.
The polls continue to favor the
left-wing Hollande. But with Hollande at 52.5 percent and Sarkozy at 47.5%, the
numbers are now closer, with a noticeable swing after the debate.
Sarkozy was already being declared the loser in advance of the vote, two
important factors are unknown and give him hope: How will those who supported
Marine Le Pen of the extreme right and François Bayrou of the Democratic
Movement vote on Sunday.
To win, Sarkozy will have to attract 60% of both
candidate’s followers, according to Frédéric Dabi of the Ifop polling
Ifop also reported that 16% of the voters are still
Dabi told daily Direct Matin that according to Ifop’s
research, “there has been a wish for victory in favor of the Left for a year and
“Never has an election been so hard,” Sarkozy said on RTL Radio,
adding that “there is no room to swing a cat.”
Hollande told France 2
television: “Nothing is completed, nothing is won,” and added that “there are
still some unknown factors in the ballot.”
Hollande has secured support
across the Left and among other factions; the situation has become increasingly
uncertain for Sarkozy.
On May 1, Le Pen called for her supporters to cast
a blank vote and attacked Sarkozy, while Bayrou on Thursday announced to general
surprise that he personally will vote for Hollande.
“I will vote for Hollande, for myself, in the name of
the values of ‘Gaullism,’” he said. This is unexpected given that Sarkozy’s
party is the heir of Charles de Gaulle, founder and first president of the Fifth
The reason is that Sarkozy has been seeking the support of
voters from Le Pen’s National Front. “Nicolas Sarkozy has given in to chasing
the extreme Right vote that does not represent our values,” Bayrou
Sarkozy’s reaction to this: “That’s nonsense...”
choice honors he who made it,” answered Hollande who, sure of his win, also told
TRL radio: “I want a large victory. If the French citizens have to make a
choice, they have to make it clearly, massively. It has to clearly
provide the ability and the means to act. Don’t create a restricted winner.”