The first round of France’s presidential election is now over, and the two leaders, incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Parti socialiste candidate François Hollande are both running hard for the runoff election on May 6 — just nine days away.
The big story out of Sunday’s vote — the strong third-place finish of Front national candidate Marine Le Pen — has shaped coverage of the race, even as Le Pen has fallen out of the race: both Sarkozy and Hollande are pursuing Front national voters.
Hollande won the first round with 28.63% of the vote to just 27.18% for Sarkozy. Le Pen won a higher-than-expected 17.90% and Front de gauche candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon won a lower-than-expected 11.10%. Centrist Mouvement démocrate candidate François Bayrou finished in 5th place with 9.13%.
So where is this race headed for the second round?
In the history of the Fifth Republic, no incumbent president has lost the first round of a presidential race (although there have been three occasions when the first-round winner ultimately lost in the second round — the last time was 1995, when Jacques Chirac defeated first-round winner Lionel Jospin).
Whereas Mélenchon has already given his full support to Hollande, Le Pen has not given her support to Sarkozy — and FN voters are split among Sarkozy, Hollande and abstaining altogether.
Sarkozy and Hollande will face off in a May 2 debate.