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French Presidential Election Heats Up


The first round in the campaign for a new French president is in its final phase with candidates broadcasting their official campaign messages. Anita Elash reports from Paris.

The 12 candidates in this race have been campaigning for months, but Monday, they started the final, "official" part of the campaign.

Workers put up campaign posters - one million in all - in front of 85,000 polling stations across France. Under strict rules that require that everyone gets equal time at the same time of day, they started broadcasting their recorded campaign messages on national television and radio.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative candidate who recently left his job as Interior Minister, is hoping to cement his reputation as a decisive politician. "I want to be President, first of all to take action", he said. "Action is the passion of the my life. For 25 years, you have been told that nothing can be done, but fate is not part of my vocabulary."

In her ads, the Socialist party candidate Segolene Royal plays on a maternal theme in a country that needs some looking after. "You already know me", she said. "I am a mother of four children, I have my feet on the ground. I have a sense of the concrete, and you know I want to achieve concrete results."

These last two weeks of campaigning will be crucial for the frontrunners. The latest polls show that 42 percent of French voters are still undecided.

Sarkozy is leading in the polls, and Royal is in second place. But with so many undecided votes, analysts say that another candidate could easily bump either Sarkozy or Royal to make it to the second round of voting.

Francois Bayrou, a horse farmer and historian has made it to third place by proposing a coalition of the left and right-wing political parties.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front party who surprised everyone by making to the second round of voting in the last election, has also been picking up support in the past few weeks.