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French Voters Head to Polls Sunday in Presidential Election's First Round

  • Anita Elash

The first round of voting in the French presidential election takes place on Sunday. It's a close race between the top two candidates, but large numbers of voters are still undecided. Anita Elash reports for VOA from Paris.

French voters have had plenty of time to make up their minds during the nonstop presidential campaign of the last few months. But by week's end, nearly 40 percent said they still are not sure.

Many voters said they found the campaign disappointing.

"From my point of view, the different candidates didn't focus on the real problems and they were just running for the presidency, and I think that's a pity," said Clement Selier, a 26-year-old economist.

Most observers say the main problems facing France are high unemployment and tension between ethnic French and immigrants.

There are 12 candidates altogether, but only four are considered serious contenders. Former Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has a tough-guy image because of his law and order response to the 2005 riots in the immigrant suburbs of Paris. He has been criticized for his admiration of the United States.

His closest rival is Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal. If she wins, she would be France's first female president.

Two candidates are potential spoilers. Francois Bayrou is a centrist who promises to unite the right and left. Jean-Marie Le Pen leads the far right National Front party. He wants to stop immigration altogether.

More people than usual have registered to vote, especially in disadvantaged areas with large immigrant populations.

If no candidate wins a majority in Sunday's vote, the top two candidates will face each other in a runoff election on May 6.

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