France election: Hollande takes lead into second round


French President Nicolas Sarkozy says a "crucial time has now come" for the people of France

French President Nicolas Sarkozy faces an uphill struggle in the second round of the presidential election, after coming second in Sunday's first vote.

He won 27.1% of the vote, while his Socialist rival Francois Hollande took 28.6%, the first time a sitting president has lost in the first round.

The two men will face each other in a second round of voting on 6 May.

Third-place Marine Le Pen took the largest share of the vote her far-right National Front has ever won, with 18%.

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris says Mr Hollande's narrow victory in this round gives him crucial momentum ahead of the run-off in two weeks' time.

Analysts suggest Mr Sarkozy, leader of the ruling centre-right UMP, will now need to woo the far-right voters who backed Ms Le Pen if he is to hold on to the presidency. But Mr Hollande remains the front runner.

Mr Sarkozy began reaching out to Ms Le Pen's voters on Monday, saying "there was this crisis vote that doubled from one election to another - an answer must be given to this crisis vote".

Around one in five people voted for the National Front candidate, including many young and working class voters, putting her ahead of seven other candidates.

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Whereas Francois Hollande can tack to the centre, President Sarkozy must appeal to the right”

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How many debates?

The election has been dominated by economic issues, with voters concerned with sluggish growth and rising unemployment.

Ms Le Pen, who campaigned on a nationalist, anti-immigration platform, said she would wait until May Day next week to give her view on the second round.

She told jubilant supporters that the result was "only the start" and that the party was now "the only opposition" to the Left.

Opinion polls taken after voting on Sunday suggested that between 48 and 60% of Le Pen voters would switch to backing Mr Sarkozy in the second round.

But pollsters also predict a large abstention rate in the second round.

The BBC's Europe editor Gavin Hewitt says the result revealed a dissatisfaction and restlessness in France, creating political volatility. The elites are despised, the economic future is feared and there is insecurity, he says.

First round results of the French presidential elections

Nearly a fifth of voters backed a party - the National Front - that wants to ditch the euro and return to the franc.

But polls suggest Mr Hollande will comfortably win the second round.

As the results came in, he said he was "best placed to become the next president of the republic" and that Mr Sarkozy had been punished by voters.

"The choice is simple, either continue policies that have failed with a divisive incumbent candidate or raise France up again with a new, unifying president," Mr Hollande said.

It is the first time a French president running for re-election has failed to win the first round since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

Mr Sarkozy - in power since 2007 - said he understood "the anguish felt by the French" in a "fast-moving world".

He called for three debates during the two weeks to the second round - centring on the economy, social issues, and international relations.

Mr Hollande promptly rejected the idea. He told reporters that the traditional single debate ahead of the second round was sufficient, and that it should "last as long as necessary".

Far-right shock


There is one clear favourite - Hollande. He has a big pool of votes on his left, and he's guaranteed to get them, more or less.

On the right there isn't the same automaticity with Le Pen voters backing Sarkozy.

Marine Le Pen has solid support, she has pulled off a major coup - 6.3 million voters chose her.

She has a clear interest in Sarkozy losing. She wants his party to implode and her party to then pick up some right-wingers from his party and become the main opposition to the Left.

Turnout on Sunday was high, at more than 80%.

Ms Le Pen achieved more than the breakthrough score polled in 2002 by her father and predecessor, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who got through to the second round with more than 16%.

Leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who was backed by the Communist Party, came fourth with almost 12%.

He urged his supporters unconditionally to rally behind Mr Hollande in the run-off.

Centrist Francois Bayrou, who was hoping to repeat his high 2007 score of 18%, garnered only about 9%.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Paris says that if Mr Sarkozy cannot change the minds of a substantial number of people, he will become the first sitting president to lose an election since 1981.

Wages, pensions, taxation, and unemployment have been topping the list of voters' concerns.

President Sarkozy has promised to reduce France's large budget deficit and to tax people who leave the country for tax reasons.

Francois Hollande vows to be a "candidate for all" who want change in France

Mr Hollande has strongly criticised Mr Sarkozy's economic record.

The Socialist candidate has promised to raise taxes on big corporations and people earning more than 1m euros a year.

He also wants to raise the minimum wage, hire 60,000 more teachers and lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some workers.

If elected, Mr Hollande would be France's first left-wing president since Francois Mitterrand, who completed two seven-year terms between 1981 and 1995.


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Hollande in power

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  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    So much now depends on Super-Sarko's direction of travel. Ever the performer he will move right in an attempt to capture Le Pens' vote and tap into the unspoken opinions many of the French hold on immigration just as we do. The interval between the first and second votes will cause the French to care about what they really wish for. Its too close to call.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    "The 'left' is as racist as the 'right' - and the Beeb has its moments, too!."

    Extremes touch each other.

    That's why Bolshevik Socialists of Stalin cooperated so well with National Socialists of Hitler (till 1941), even training future Wermacht officers in Soviet military academies and on Soviet soil when it could not be done in Nazi Germany proper.

    [also cf. Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact]

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    A "dictat" comes from a dictatorship - like the ECHR. Since when have we been allowed to question Brussels or Strasbourg on any of their legislative or legal "dictats"?"

    The UK drafted the ECHR in the first place! As for the EU, Commission proposals have to be agreed by the Council of Ministers (includes our elected government) and national and EU parliaments (elected).

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    @ 141 "At least the UK has George Osbourne, whose brilliant financial acumen should see the UK set on the course to recovery."

    Seriously, I'm not sure even George Osbourne would describe himself as having brilliant financial acumen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Chris London
    French politics has always been like the military..... Left, right, left, right.....

    And the UK's politics hasn't? Do wake up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    The French are just delaying the inevitable if they think a socialist is going to get them out of their mess. France is in the same boat as Italy,Spain & Portugal. Too many years of thinking that money grows on trees and with a workforce that thinks that the rest of the world owes them a free lunch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    What needs to be emphasised is that all French parties have to be constitutional.

    That constitution is what a number of commentators here (but not I) would call socialist/communist.


  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    You can always rely on the French to stir things up! Unlike us Brits who just blog and bear it. 80% turnout is very impressive.

    The Merkozy show is toast even if somehow he wins it. Too many people have woken up and demanded change.

    A lot less of Brussels, Banks, Africa and Islam. Bravo mes amis... VIVE LA FRANCE!

    When will we have a real, representative Labour party worth voting for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Isn't part of Sarkozy's problem his constant cosying-up to Angela Merkel - creating 'Merkozy'..?
    The French are intensely nationalistic - and it seems to me that Hollande's stance of a more 'distant' relationship with Germany chimes with their instincts...

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Hollande has peaked. The euphoria of Rd 1, when voters get to blow kisses at their ideological BFFs, will yield to hard pragmatism on the eve of Rd 2. For all the grousing, much of it legitimate, most French households enjoy a high standard of living (compared, for example, to US cousins) & will not risk their precarious economic recovery on a new, rash, untested President who will cost them €

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Dr_Ads. Allowing free reign to the unfettered capitialists and bankers. Entering into illegal wars so to side with GW Bush. Undertaxing the rich. Not investing in a furure that we can ALL prosper in. Ensuring the gap between rich and poor got wider and wider year on year. All very much NOT socialist traits. Stuff that Maggie would have been proud of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    120.Total Mass Retain - Well, at least we get some say in determining EU "dictats".

    A "dictat" comes from a dictatorship - like the ECHR. Since when have we been allowed to question Brussels or Strasbourg on any of their legislative or legal "dictats"? Or, come to that, any of their unelected member's expenses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    It would be wrong to talk about a huge momentum for Hollande ahead of the run-off, the difference being so small (1,5) between him and Sarko on a partial scale (55% of votes). I believe Sarkozy will be the winner, amassing votes from Le Pen and Bayrou for the second round (they make up some 27% together). Many French voters (esp. centrists) will flee Hollande's high tax promise and vote Sarkozy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    France MUST

    1. Defeat (nay destroy) her trade union movement
    2. End her obscene welfare state.
    3. Abolish her ridiculous labour laws

    If she can achieve these 3 goals she has a chance. If she does 10 yrs time even Somalia will have surpassed her.

    The same is true of the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    "Hollande is not "socialist", only moderately social democratic in the British Old Labour sense"

    So when Hollande (whose former consort, Royal [sic!], was a previous Socialists' presidential candidate) says "we, Socialists" he is lying to his core electorate just to be elected?

    P.S. Old Labour was hardly Social Democrat. That's why it took Tony Blair to make it finally electable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Without a clear objective, there is no WE. Those of you counting on the support of others for your schemes should inspect your assumptions.
    Fighting a war cuts through differences in individual ideology for a short time. There is no war now. Socialism is a dead duck. Nobody is going to subordinate their individual interests for an abstract ideal, unless there is a very acute reason to do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Turkeys are never going to vote for Christmas & I expect incumbent parties of all shades to suffer at the hands of the electorate over the next few years - not least where they are driving austerity to prop up the Euro.

    Expect more support for radical parties too: on the left as people reject global capitalism & on the right as people blame immigration for their woes.

    Turbulent times ahead

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    If these results were transferred to the UK the Conservatives under first past the post would lose the next General Election

    It is clear that instead of searching for votes in the middle the Conservatives need to consolidate the votes on the right

    I suspect a large number of Conservative MPs think the same but not leadership

    UK right of centre parties need to start talking !

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    "Infowars is BS Alex Jones is cointelpro."

    I'll look into it. However, any movement that makes people take a step back, think, and re-evaluate the situation is not a bad thing, no matter how crank or cookee they sound.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    No surprises in the high right wing vote. The media villifies the far right while embracing the far left, this bias is bound to cause a backlash.


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