France heads to ballots to select new President

France heads to ballots to select new President

France heads to ballots to select new President Candidates in the French presidential election have finished their campaigns, ahead of voters heading to the polls on April 22, with the latest polls showing Socialist candidate ahead of incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The race will continue to a second round on May 6, as none of the candidates are expected to win an outright majority in the first round.

Front-runner Francois Hollande held his final rally in Bordeaux on April 19, while Sarkozy held his last campaign event in Nice on April 20. Polls show the two men neck and neck in the first round, with Sarkozy taking 24 to 29 percent and Hollande 26 to 30 percent of the votes.

‘Genocide’ criteria from Hollande

However, Hollande is the clear favorite in the second round, where he is expected to defeat Sarkozy with between 53 and 58 percent of the vote. The polls show far-right candidate Marine Le Pen with between 14 and 17 percent, left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon with 12 to 15 percent, and centrist Francois Bayrou with 10 to 12 percent.

Hollande recently said that Turkey would not be able to join in the European Union within the next five years, and that he would make recognition of the 1915 Armenian killings as “genocide” by Turkey one of the key criteria for Turkey’s EU membership, if he is elected. Despite the longstanding negotiation process with Turkey, Hollande said it had not “met any significant condition.” Diplomatic sources said Hollande was not against the continuation of accession negotiations, and that his recent statements were no different from his previous stance.

Sarkozy’s UMP recently brought legislation criminalizing denial of the 1915 events as genocide to the French Senate, which increased tension between two countries. The Constitutional Council later struck down the law.