Francois Hollande beat Nicolas Sarkozy
in the first round of France's
Socialist challenger Francois Hollande beat Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of France s presidential election Sunday, with a resurgent far-right emerging as possible kingmakers in the run-off.
As expected, Hollande and the wounded right-wing incumbent will now face off in the May 6 second-round, but the big surprise of the night was the record score for anti-immigrant, anti-EU flag-bearer Marine Le Pen.
Hollande won between 28 and 29 percent of the vote in the first round, to Sarkozy s 25.5 to 27, and Le Pen won a best-ever 18 to 20 percent, according to estimates compiled from ballot samples by several polling agencies.
"Firstly, I am tonight in the lead among the candidates," Hollande declared before supporters in his rural political stronghold of Tulle. "I am today the best placed candidate to become the next French president.
"The second major lesson to draw from this election -- and this is undeniable -- is that the first round was a punishment and a rejection of the incumbent," he said to cheers.
Sarkozy sought to put positive spin on the result and brandished his right-wing credentials in a clear nod to Le Pen supporters, despite being the first incumbent to lose a first round-vote in modern French history. READ MORE