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Sarkozy vs Hollande: France votes in presidential showdown

Hollande is likely to become the first Socialist president since Francois Mitterand died in 1995.

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A French voter in the central town of Tulle takes ballots papers to vote in the second round of the 2012 French presidential election on May 6. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

PARIS, France -- Voters across France are casting their ballots in the second round of the presidential election, with the Socialist Francois Hollande widely expected to defeat the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.

If Hollande wins he will be the first socialist to serve as France's president since Francois Mitterand died in office in 1995, the BBC points out. 

Agence France Presse reports that turnout among the more than 46 million people eligible to vote is expected to be high, but not as high as in 2007, when Sarkozy defeated Hollande's partner at the time Segolene Royal.

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Opinion polls and electioneering were banned in the final 32 hours before polling stations opened at 8am, but the news agency says that the last opinion polls conducted on Friday showed Sarkozy had closed the gap on Hollande to as little as four percent.  Its adds that "a complete turnaround would still constitute a surprise.

Campaigning has been dominated by concerns over rising unemployment and the euro crisis, with Sarkozy arguing that he averted recession and will preserve a strong economy and Hollande saying the country is facing a "serious crisis" and needs change, says France 24.

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Sarkozy claims a win for Hollande would throw France and Europe "into financial and economic disarray", according to The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, Hollande says that under Sarkozy debt has risen to close to 90% of France's annual output, the trade deficit for 2011 went up to almost €70 billion, and unemployment reached 10%.

The winner of the election is expected to be announced at 8pm Paris time, says Associated Press.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/france/120506/sarkozy-vs-hollande-france-votes-presidential-showdown