France's ruling conservative party has officially named Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy as its candidate for president, setting the stage for a showdown campaign with socialist nominee Segolene Royal.
The governing Union of Popular Movement party said Sunday that 69 percent of U.M.P. party members voted for Sarkozy. He was the lone party candidate in a 12-day Internet vote that was planned before Defense Minister Michele Alliot Marie withdrew her candidacy earlier this month.
In an address to nearly 80,000 party members in Paris, the plain-spoken Sarkozy urged unity within his party, in an apparent reference to a rift between him and incumbent President Jacques Chirac.
Recent opinion polls show neither Sarkozy nor Royal winning the required 50 percent of the vote in April 22 polls. Analysts say a May 6 run-off vote would be decided by a narrow margin.
President Chirac has not announced whether he will seek an unprecedented third term. But analysts say the 74-year-old incumbent is unlikely to run.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.