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Hollande and Sarkozy supporters celebrate election success, far right surges

posted 22 Apr 2012, 13:08 by Mpelembe   [ updated 22 Apr 2012, 13:09 ]

Socialist favourite Francois Hollande tops Nicolas Sarkozy in first round of French presidential election, Marine Le Pen surges. Supporters react to results across France.

Supporters of Socialist candidate Francois Hollande celebrated their win in the first round of France's presidential elections on Sunday (April 22).
Hollande led conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy by about 29 to 26 percent in reliable computer projections broadcast after polling stations closed, and the two will meet in a head-to-head decider on May 6.

Far-rightist Marine Le Pen threw the race wide open by scoring nearly 20 percent in the first round - votes that may determine the runoff between Hollande and Sarkozy.

If Hollande wins on May 6, joining a small minority of left-wing governments in Europe, he has promised to lead a push for a bigger focus on growth in the euro zone, mainly by adding pro-growth clauses to a European budget discipline treaty.

Supporters in Paris and his political stronghold of Tulle cheered and waved flags in excitement has their success was revealed.

"I'm pretty happy. We need to keep the momentum in order to win with a big majority in the second round. Tonight we are very happy," said supports Samuel Ray at party celebrations in Paris.

Sarkozy has painted himself as the safest pair of hands to lead France and the euro zone in turbulent times, but Sunday's vote appeared to be a strong rejection of his flashy style as well as his economic record.

But supporters said they were still feeling confident ahead of the second round.

"We have some pretty contradictory results. There is a small gap, but we are confident for the second round. We didn't manage to lead the first round, so now we have to gather together all the people that want to build 'La France Forte' (a strong France), and who think that Sarkozy is the best candidate, the only one who can get us out of this situation," he said.

But Le Pen's record score of 18-20 percent was the sensation of the night, beating her father's 2002 result and outpolling hard leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, in fourth place on 11 percent.

Le Pen, who took over the anti-immigration National Front in early 2011, wants jobs reserved for French nationals at a time when jobless claims are at a 12-year high. She also advocates abandoning the euro currency and restoring monetary policy to Paris.

Her score reflected a surge in anti-establishment populist parties in many euro zone countries from Amsterdam to Athens as austerity and the debt crisis bite.

Voter surveys show about half of her supporters would back Sarkozy in a second round and perhaps one fifth would vote for Hollande, making her a potential kingmaker in the runoff.