Socialist presidential challenger François Hollande topped the first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday with 28.4 percent of votes, while incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy finished second with 25.5 percent, according to exit polls. Those figures set up a widely expected run-off between Sarkozy and the candidate of France’s main opposition party who led most voter intentions surveys before the first round.
Exit polls announced at 8pm showed Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party, had conquered third place with 20%. Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon took 11.5%, and centrist François Bayrou 8.5%, the Ipsos polling agency said. The placement of the two leading candidates in the election were in line with dozens of opinion surveys published before Sunday’s ballot, but Le Pen’s figures were well above any of those forecasts.
However, Le Pen’s surprise score and doubts about who supporters of Bayrou would ultimately back promised to make the second round a nail-biting election.For diverse (and terse) views of the outcome, check out Reuters' report, 'Analysts' view: Hollande tops Sarkozy in French vote'. And for live updates of the results, check out The Guardian (U.K.).