Hollande wins first ballot, far-right surges in French presidential election

Socialist Party candidate François Hollande came out on top in the first round of voting of France’s presidential election on Sunday, beating out his main rival and incumbent, Nicholas Sarkozy. As the Guardian reports, it is the first time in more than 50 years that an outgoing president has failed to win the first round of voting.

In a speech on Sunday, Hollande said he will cut France’s debt in half while boosting economic growth, and that he represents “all the forces who want to turn one page and open another.”

Perhaps the biggest story of the day, though, was the strong showing of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who seized over 18 per cent of the ballots. It was the highest-ever showing for her anti-immigration, anti-European Union party, which placed not not far behind Sarkozy’s  Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, which received 27.8 per cent of the vote. Hollande’s Socialists won 28.6.

Analysts say Le Pen’s popularity, and that of the Communist-leaning Jean-Luc Mélanchon (who receive 11 per cent of the vote), reveal a deep-rooted dissatisfaction with the status quo of French politics. Much of the campaign has featured fiery rhetoric about the place of Islam in France, and taxation of the country’s richest citizens. This has forced both Sarkozy and Hollande to move away away from the political centre in an effort to appeal to disaffected voters.

Sarkozy and Hollande will face off in final ballots on May 6.