Voters in France cast ballots Sunday for their favorite among 10 candidates vying to become the country's next leader. A second-round runoff will take place May 6 between the top two vote getters, incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Francois Hollande.
Just a block from grim housing projects, people trickle into a primary school at Aulnay-sous-Bois to vote in the French presidential election. They have 10 candidates to choose from, ranging from former Troskyist Jean-Luc Melonchon on the far left to anti-immigration candidate Marine le Pen, on the far right.
Twenty-seven-year-old Malian Binta Chacha arrives at the polling station with her husband and three small children. She says she is voting for the first time in her life because she wants change. Her candidate: Socialist front-runner Francois Hollande.
Chacha says that under conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy nothing has changed. People cannot find adequate housing and work. She says Sarkozy blames France's economic problems on immigration, but she says immigrants are doing the hard jobs that French refuse to do.
Jobs and France's sickly economy are top issues during this presidential election. That is particularly true in tough, working class suburbs like Aulnay-sous-Bois with high immigrant populations and high unemployment rates. Aulnay was among dozens of suburbs that exploded in rioting in 2005, in France's worst bout of urban violence in recent history.
Hollande held a campaign rally at Aulnay-Sous-Bois earlier this month. He promises to tax the weathly more and pour more state funds into job creation, among other measures.
Sarkozy is banking on his experience steering France through hard economic times. As president, he promised people would earn more by working more. But unemployment grew during his presidency, and today voters like Aulnay storekeeper Embark Essaidi are disillusioned by his promises.
Essaidi believes the election campaign has largely ignored concerns in poor suburbs like Aulnay-sous-Bois - like youth unemployment that reaches up to 40 percent in some places.
Resident James Hermemin agrees.
But Hermemin believes Sarkozy will likely be elected to a second term. He says Hollande lacks leadership experience, which France's current president has shown during difficult economic times.