PARIS, France -- The incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist candidate Francois Hollande have made it through to the second round of the French presidential election.
Voter turn out was estimated at around 80% compared with 84% at the last elections.
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Sarkozy's result makes him the first outgoing president to lose a first round vote since the Fifth Republic was created in 1958, AFP says.
The news agency quotes analysts as saying that his fate is now in the hands of the far far-right candidate Marine Le Pen who took 18 per cent of the vote. That's the best result in her party's history, and beat the 17% that saw her predecessor and father Jean Marie Le Pen through to the second round against Jacques Chirac in 2007.
"The battle of France has only just begun. Nothing will be the same again, "Le Pen told her supporters, Reuters says, adding that she would give her view on the runoff at a May Day rally in Paris next week.
According to the BBC, Sarkozy is facing "an uphill struggle" in the second round, with Mr Hollande telling supporters he was "best placed to become the next president of the republic".
The news service says that 350 polls published since this campaign began have put Mr Hollande in a commanding lead for round two.
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Meanwhile, left-wing hopeful Jean-Luc Melenchon today also got about 11% of the ballots and the centrist Francois Bayrou finished fifth with almost 9%, reports RT, adding that the other six candidates delivered modest single-digit results.
Associated Press says that a Hollande victory is likely and could alter the European political landscape as the continent deals with an economic crisis.
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