France Votes in Presidential Runoff

Posted May 6th, 2012 at 2:00 am (UTC-5)
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French citizens are casting their ballots in a presidential runoff election Sunday.

The latest opinion polls indicate President Nicolas Sarkozy has narrowed the gap behind his Socialist rival, but Francois Hollande is still expected to emerge victorious.

President Sarkozy has faced criticism for his handling of the economy and his brash style during his five years in office.

Council on Foreign Relations analyst Charles Kupchan says the president has lost the popularity he once enjoyed.

“Sarkozy promised what he called 'a rupture' – a break with the past, a liberalization of the French marketplace. And he has made some incremental steps to tax reform and to try to liberalize the labor market, and he has raised the retirement age – but French growth is really stuck in neutral. And the second thing is that Sarkozy seems to have lost his political touch. Many, many French voters see him as insufficiently 'presidential' – he is down in the trenches. They see him as hyperactive and unable to stick to a steady course.”

Mr. Hollande is a veteran politician who headed the Socialist Party for several years, but he has never held a top government post.

The Socialist candidate's presidential bid received a boost Thursday, when former candidate, centrist Francois Bayrou, said he would vote for him. Bayrou won 9 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections last month.

Meanwhile, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who finished third in the first round of balloting last month, said she will not support either candidate in the runoff.

Voting in France started at 8:00 a.m. local time and will close 10 hours later.

French citizens living in Australia and some French territories overseas started casting their ballots earlier.