|President Sarkozy (right) and his chief rival, Francois Hollande (left, in more ways than one)|
'First round' ? How many rounds are there, you ask ?
For the skinny on how it works, check out Angela Diffley's succinct article on the Radio France Internationale website.
Apparently turnout is ramping up, according to France24.
Who is favored to win, according to the exit polls ? Well, that's something of a problem--and issue--in France, where publication of such info is illegal, and could even result in nullification of the election.
Look, if you don't believe me, read France24's piece, 'Row over exit polls engulfs French presidential election', which I excerpt below, for the irremediably lazy.
Prefer non-Gallic coverage of the vote ? Check out BBC Online.
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A row over the publication of exit polls is threatening to mar the run up to the French presidential elections.
With less than 24 hours before France goes to the polls in the first round of voting, authorities have issued threats of legal action against anyone who intends to flout a ban on the publication of exit polls.
In France, exit polls - which are taken as an accurate reflection of the election result - are available shortly after 6pm when voting stations close in small towns and villages across the country.
But under current rules, French media are barred from publishing the surveys or even partial results until 8pm, the time when voting stations in big cities like Paris and Marseille officially shut.
If there is a widespread breach of the ban, France could even face the possibility of the elections being annulled as candidates have the right to call for a revote if they feel electors have been unduly swayed by the leaks.
The ban is designed to prevent late voters from being influenced by exit polls which could persuade them to change their preference or even dissuade them from voting at all.
But with the advent of social media, many believe the law is outdated and predict the exit polls will inevitably be leaked and published online by some of France’s millions of Twitter and Facebook users.
The waters are muddied further because foreign media sites are exempt from the law, and some such as Belgium-based newspaper Le Soir have vowed to do “their journalistic duty” and publish the exit polls as soon as possible.
Websites of several Swiss and Belgian newspapers crashed in 2007 under the weight of French online visitors wanting to know the results before their own media had published them.
Earlier this week leftwing French daily Liberation added fuel to the fire by insisting it “reserved the right” to publish predicted results of Sunday’s first round vote at 6.30pm. It invited viewers to visit the site at 6.30pm hinting that it would breach the law.
Authorities in France hit back Thursday vowing to fine any media outlet, including social media users, €75,000 if they breach the law.
Francois Molins, France’s chief prosecutor warned that those who publish polls or predictions before 8pm “in whatever form” would be prosecuted.