Accessibility links

Breaking News

French Presidential Candidates Court Centrist Voters

French presidential candidates Nicholas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal are stepping up their efforts to win over the voters of defeated centrist candidate Francois Bayrou ahead of the May 6 run-off election.

At stake are almost seven million voters who gave Bayrou a third place finish in Sunday's first round ballot and could decide who will be France's next president.

Conservative Sarkozy, who won more than 31 percent of the vote, has already indicated he would not seek a direct alliance with Bayrou.

Socialist Royal, who garnered close to 26 percent of the vote, said she is available for a dialogue with Bayrou, who is expected to outline his position Wednesday.

A televised debate between Sarkozy and Royal on May 2 is expected to define the rest of the campaign.

The Sunday election drew a near-record voter turnout of almost 85 percent. Analysts say that indicates voters' desire for change.

Sarkozy struck a conciliatory tone in a speech to supporters after the first round of voting, saying he wants to rally the French people around a "new French dream."

Royal said she believes it is possible to reform France without "brutalizing" it - a reference to her rival's calls for ending worker protections and his tough stance on immigration and crime.

Meanwhile, French news media reported that outgoing President Jacques Chirac will move from the Elysee Palace into an apartment overlooking the Seine River on the posh Left Bank when he leaves office next month.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.