Hollande Beats Sarkozy in First Vote

Polls say Socialist likely to defeat French president in final round

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France finished behind the Socialist presidential candidate, Francois Hollande, in the first round of voting for the presidency, and polls are predicting strong support for Hollande in the final vote two weeks from now.

Reuters reported Monday that Sarkozy was wooing far-right voters in an attempt to build support prior to the second round of voting, after he finished second to the Socialist candidate in a field of ten. Polls conducted after the votes were cast show that Hollande seems likely to appeal to more voters than Sarkozy in the second round, with a comfortable margin of victory predicted at 56%.

On issues of immigration and security, Sarkozy was taking a hard line in his quest to find more support among voters on the right. Hollande, however, was expected to pick up not only supporters of the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who finished fourth in the first round, but also a substantial number of supporters of centrist Francois Bayrou.

Although the National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, won the highest number of votes for a far-right candidate ever, her supporters were not expected to make a sufficient difference to Sarkozy in the final round of voting. Hollande has promised to inject social justice into austerity measures, and voters tired of austerity taking an ever-greater toll found the prospect appealing.

However, Le Pen's strong showing was a bright spot for Sarkozy, although Le Pen is no fan of the euro and favors the abandonment of the joint currency by France. Even though Hollande favors a less harsh austerity program, financial analysts are saying that regardless of who wins the election, tougher measures will have to be imposed by the new president.

Markets were not reassured by the election results. "We've got a vote that is much more uncertain than we thought it would be," Dominique Barbet said in the report. Barbet, an economist at BNP Paribas, continued, "There's going to be some pretty hard campaigning, and the markets aren't going to like that. It's not going to be a very pro-European campaign."

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