As it happened: France elects a new president

Key points

  • French conservative leader Nicolas Sarkozy has narrowly lost to Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in the first round of the president election.
  • Mr Sarkozy and Mr Hollande will now go into a run-off vote on 6 May.
  • The far right's Marine Le Pen took around a fifth of the vote while the far left's Jean-Luc Melenchon won 12%, and the centrist Francois Bayrou took 9%, based on incomplete estimates.
  • The country has been led by conservative presidents for 17 years, since the Socialist Francois Mitterrand stood down in 1995.
  • With France the world's fifth-largest economy and a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, the final outcome of the election may have an impact far beyond the eurozone.
  • All times in BST (France: BST+1)

Live text

Reporting:

  • Patrick Jackson 

Last updated 4 May 2012

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Welcome to our live coverage of the presidential election in France, where final votes are being cast in the first round. Follow us for updates on the results, analysis from BBC correspondents and comment from readers in France and abroad.

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First results released on close of polls at 19:00 (20:00 French time) usually provide an accurate picture of the final outcome. Election officials base these results on a representative sample of votes cast by 17:00, when polling stations outside the big cities close.

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Officials said 70% of people had voted by late afternoon - only slightly down from the 2007 figure.

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Nicolas Sarkozy won a decisive victory in the second round of the presidential election in May 2007, casting himself as a moderniser, claiming to represent a clean break with the country's traditional ruling elite.

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Those first results are in: Francois Hollande 28%; Nicolas Sarkozy 26%; Marine Le Pen 20%; Jean-Luc Melenchon 12%; Francois Bayrou 9%.

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Remember, these are the first official results, not exit poll data.

TWEET

Gavin Hewitt, BBC Europe Editor

tweets "Mood at Sarkozy HQ is that the fight is still on"

TWEET

Christian Fraser, BBC correspondent,

tweets "#Sarkozy first incumbent in the 5th Republic - since 1958 - to lose the first round."