High turnout observed in French presidential election

Sunday, April 22, 2007 File:French presidential elections 2007 Paris Place dItalie 12 candidates.jpg

The official campaign posters for the 12 candidates
Image: David Monniaux.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

As voting began in the first round of the presidential elections, French voters showed up at polling stations at a brisk pace on Sunday. The Interior Ministry reported that by noon local time, turnout had reached 31.2%, a level not seen since 1981 and ten percent higher than the last election for President of France.

Voting stations were to begin closing at 6:00 p.m., but those in large cities will be open until 8:00 p.m. Initial projections are expected to be published at that time, based on a partial count of votes from hundreds of stations around the country.

Romain Pinault, an election official at a school in Paris' eighth district, told Associated Press a second voting station was added to handle the extra voters, "The participation rate [at this location] is about 30 percent more than five years ago."

Nicolas Sarkozy of the UMP and Ségolène Royal of the Socialist Party are considered the frontrunners. But the latest opinion polls suggested a third of the 44.5 million registered voters were still not sure of their choice, lending hope to third-placed candidate François Bayrou (UDF) and to Jean-Marie Le Pen (National Front), whom most polls had in fourth.

One of the reasons for the high turnout seems to be that there are 3.3 million newly registered voters, many from lower-income immigrant neighborhoods, many of which saw civil unrest in 2005. Nicolas Sarkozy was interior minister at the time and was criticized for his handling of the situation.

Local Socialist leader Ali Romdhane, who led a campaign drive in such a neighborhood, told the Los Angeles Times, "In a way, Sarkozy helped us. Our slogan was, 'Vote instead of vandalize.' We told the young people that their strength rested in their voter identification card. And they are the ones who are going to make the difference."

If a candidate receives a majority of the vote in this round, the election is over. However, polls suggest that is an unlikely outcome. The second round will be between the two leading candidates from today's vote and will take place on Sunday, May 6, 2007. This is the ninth presidential election of the French Fifth Republic.

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See Sarkozy and Royal go ahead to second round

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