Hollande Tops Sarkozy in French Vote, Le Pen Surges
Far-rightist Marine Le Pen threw France’s presidential race wide open on Sunday by scoring nearly 20 percent in the first round - votes that may determine a runoff between Socialist favorite Francois Hollande and conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Hollande led Sarkozy by about 28.5 percent to 26 percent in reliable computer projections broadcast with one-third of ballots counted, meaning the two will meet in a head-to-head decider on May 6 that may be closer than had been expected.
But Le Pen’s record score of 19.6 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. Centrist Francois Bayrou finished fifth on less than 9 percent.
It was the first time a sitting president seeking re-election had been beaten into second place in the first round. But Sarkozy backers at his campaign headquarters chanted “We are going to win”, interpreting Le Pen’s score as more significant than Hollande’s narrow lead over the incumbent.