French presidential election: Your views
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is wooing far-right voters after losing narrowly to his Socialist rival in the presidential election's first round.
Pollsters say Mr Hollande is the clear favourite to win the second round on 6 May, a duel between him and Mr Sarkozy, who leads the centre-right UMP.
If Mr Hollande wins he will become the first Socialist president in France in 17 years
BBC News website readers in France have been reacting to the result.
The problem with the other candidates is they all seem completely out of touch with the electorate. French people want honest and adult discussions about domestic issues and international concerns.
It is short-sighted to dismiss or categorise Madame Le Pen's third place victory as the result of protest voting. The political landscape has changed in France.
The huge swing vote for Marine Le Pen confirms the dire state of French political engagement with Mr Sarkozy's party.
When Mr Sarkozy was elected we all thought our politics, economy and our role on the world stage would be different and perhaps even better.
Yesterday's results were a reflection of our disappointment and anger at Mr Sarkozy's shortcomings.
He is an astute political tactician but coverage of his private life in the popular press has been a distraction. It has cast doubt over his ability to lead and in a time of austerity this is embarrassing.
Mr Hollande is an amiable candidate but he is too eager to please everyone. His generous promises about public sector reform and staggered increases in public spending simply don't add up. He will say anything to be elected.
In contrast, Madame Le Pen is genuinely concerned about the sovereignty of France and the economic prospects for the French people.
I don't necessarily agree with all her policies, for example ditching the euro, but I feel she is the better option for France. She can be trusted.
I am acutely aware how this election result will look to our neighbours. If Madame Le Pen had reached the next stage of voting, it would have sent shock waves around Europe, disappointing our allies and possibly scaring them too.
Patsy Pouvelle, Reims
As an inveterate Green voter I am disappointed with the result of Les Verts, although this was accurately predicted in opinion polls.
More so than the far right vote which I find quite worrying.
My first impression is that the Front de Gauche candidate, in targeting Marine Le Pen in the run-up to the voting, somehow provoked a strong reaction among people with far right-leaning tendencies, causing a greater turnout than usual in their ranks.
It is difficult to discern who might win the second round of voting. Both candidates are very close in terms of percentage points.
No one knows how the people who voted for Marine Le Pen will cast their votes in the next round. We may see a swathe of tactical voting.
The legacy of Marine Le Pen's third place victory is still uncertain.
On principle I would not vote for Mr Sarkozy in the next round. He has slashed school budgets and now there are fewer teachers.
I would only vote for Mr Sarkozy if it was necessary to prevent a far right candidate from winning.
I might vote for Mr Hollande. He has promised to salvage the public sector.
Although I am disappointed that none of the main candidates have pushed the cause of environmental policies in their respective manifestos.
Philippe Morineau, Paris
The election results could have been much worse for Mr Sarkozy.
From the outset of his campaign everybody predicted that it was going to be a hard fought battle. They were right.
Job insecurity, mass immigration and the credit crunch have diminished Mr Sarkozy's popularity. Still, I voted for him.
He is a credible statesman, well known and respected by his political partners in Europe. He is pro-European and he is a tried and tested candidate. I believe, given the opportunity, he will kick-start our faltering economy.
During the campaign many commentators said that Mr Hollande's electoral success was inevitable. I disagree. Yes, Mr Hollande pulled ahead slightly but the race is still far from over.
Let's keep some perspective. Mr Hollande is a little-known politician, a rural MP with limited experience. His policies would plunge us further into recession.
Marine Le Pen's late surge at the polls is surprising. Her third place ranking is testament to the anger felt amongst ordinary people and has simultaneously prompted a wider debate on nationalism.
Marine Le Pen's isolationist policies would leave the French economy shipwrecked. Without our European partners we would fare badly.
Support for her party may grow if the main political parties continue to ignore the concerns of struggling families.
In the second run-off I will vote for Mr Sarkozy again. His fight back has already begun.
After all it is ludicrous to change horses in midstream.
Aurelien Girault, La Milesse
Put simply, I did not want to vote for a candidate from any of the main political parties. They are all identical. So I voted for the centrist politician Francois Bayrou.
I wanted to elect someone who had real ideas about how to reduce hospital waiting times, create jobs, reduce our national debt, build homes and improve access to public services.
It is disappointing that Mr Bayrou failed to progress further in the race and failed to exploit the weaknesses of the other well-known candidates.
To the outside world it must seem implausible that Marine Le Pen enjoyed such a resounding success.
But her marginal victory should not be viewed as a watershed moment in French politics.
It is clear why students, pensioners and workers all voted for her. They want change, a new kind of politics.
People feel alienated and disenfranchised from politicians and many in desperation flocked to her because they believed she could give them hope.
In the next round of voting I'm uncertain who I will support but it is important to take part in the process so I will head down to my local town hall.
It will be a tough decision because none of the candidates left in the race are inspiring. I might tune into the televised presidential debate, which will give Mr Hollande and Mr Sarkozy their last chance to impress me.
I'm a recent graduate and I'm actively searching for work. Can any politician guarantee me or the millions of unemployed a job?
David Vollborth, Paris
This is a great result for Mr Hollande. The French right have been in power for 17 years and it has been a disaster.
Mr Melenchon added an extra dimension to the election race”
Mr Sakory's government has burdened the country with crippling debt. Everyone is hoping that we will see the last of this president and his cronies.
Marine Le Pen gained a good percentage of the votes. That is no real surprise. Her party always recycles the same story line; curb immigration and increase security.
It was a disappointing result for Mr Melenchon but I don't think he could expect more. However, the fact that he ran for office really added an extra dimension to the election race.
Mr Melenchon politics was considered to be far too left for most people but he is a great orator and it is refreshing to get away from the politically correct.
We have a Front de Gauche council where I live and they work wonders. There are no reports of riots or racial tension.
Eva Joly and the Greens failed to capture or ignite public interest. She performed poorly and in my opinion she was not the right candidate for the party to field. That should have been obvious to everyone including her own party.
Interviews by Elisabeth Ukanah