More than 44 million French voters are headed to the polls that could make Nicolas Sarkozy the country’s first president to lose a fight for re-election in more than 30 years, france 24 reports.
voters across France are casting their ballot Sunday in the first round of the 2012 French presidential election choosing between 10 candidates including President Nicolas Sarkozy, Socialist Party candidate François Hollande and extreme right National Front party chief, Marine Le Pen.
According to French law, if no candidate wins 50% of the vote, the top two contenders head for a knock-out round, set to be held on May 6, 2012.
While predictions indicate a high abstention rate leaving the outcome uncertain, opinion polls point towards Francois Hollande, Sarkozy’s main Socialist challenger which could give France its first left-wing president in 17 years just as fears re-emerge over Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.
The two political leaders are on course to finish in the top two in Sunday’s polling, therefore setting them up to square off in a second round vote on May 6.
The outcome of that vote will decide who is France’s president for the next five years.
Voting has begun in France’s overseas territories but on the mainland citizens must wait until Sunday to cast their ballots.
On Sunday, voting will carry on in 85,000 polling stations across the country’s mainland. Voting began at 8am local time (06:00 GMT) and continue until 8pm (18:00 GMT).
Over the past months, campaigning has concentrated on the economy as France confronts an unemployment rate of around 10%, its highest in 12 years, and a stagnant economy as the eurozone debt crisis continues.