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French election : first round resultsResults
31.11% 25.84% 18.55% 10.51%
UMP leader Nicolas Sarkozy won the first round of the French presidential election Sunday and will meet socialist rival Segolene Royal in a run-off vote.
Initial estimates put yesterday's turnout at up to 87%, a record for a first-round vote in more than 40 years.
Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy has seized a strong lead over Socialist Segolene Royal in the first round of France's presidential election and must now woo centrist voters if he is to win the run-off vote on May 6.
With almost all ballots in Sunday's voting counted, Sarkozy had 31.1 percent, Royal 25.8 percent, centrist Francois Bayrou 18.5 percent and far-right head Jean-Marie Le Pen 10.5 percent.
Four opinion polls late on Sunday showed Sarkozy, a former interior minister, looked set to win the run-off and dash Royal's dream of becoming France's first female president.
Jean-Louis Borloo, the popular labour minister who is backing Sarkozy, offered one option to win centrist backing.
"If Nicolas Sarkozy were president, I would think it would be necessary, vital, fortuitous that there be UDF members massively present in the government," Borloo told French radio, quickly adding it was up to Sarkozy and Bayrou to decide this.
Sarkozy, aiming to soften the "tough cop" image that helped him siphon votes from the far right, struck a conciliatory tone before ecstatic party faithful soon after the polls closed.
Reaching out to the same centrist voters now up for grabs, Royal sought to stoke an undercurrent of concern about Sarkozy by saying she refused "to cultivate fear" and opposed "a France dominated by the law of the strongest or most brutal".
"Among Francois Bayrou's supporters there were men and women who wanted change, who even believed they would beat Sarkozy by voting for Bayrou," Francois Hollande, Socialist leader and Royal's partner, told France 2 television.
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