From The Times (UK), April 23, 2007, by Charles Bremner in Paris [see our previous posting on this subject] ....
Voters sent Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal into the run-off for the French presidency yesterday, confounding the hopes of their centrist and far-right challengers in the most closely contested campaign for decades.
Mr Sarkozy, 52, who is promising radical reform to haul France out of stagnation, took 31 per cent of the votes, and Ms Royal, 53, whose unorthodox campaign unsettled many on the Left, won solid endorsement from her own camp with nearly 26 per cent.
François Bayrou, 55, the centrist who had threatened to overtake Ms Royal, earned just over 18 per cent — a strong score for a third candidate but a blow for his attempt to forge a “third-way” revolution in French politics.
The biggest disappointment was suffered by Jean-Marie Le Pen, 78, the veteran National Front leader, who scored only about 11 per cent [my biggest "disappointment" was that he scored anything at all - SL]. This was far below the 17 per cent that took him into the second round in 2002, eliminating the Socialist candidate.
...As the unsuccessful candidates from the Far Left called on their voters to support Ms Royal, Mr Sarkozy made his first play for the centrist voters who were deterred by his rightwing rhetoric and backed Mr Bayrou. Eight million people voted for him but it remains unclear which way they will swing in the run-off. To the cheers of supporters in his Paris headquarters, Mr Sarkozy promised “to rally the French people around a new French dream”.
...The winner of the run-off will succeed President Chirac, who leaves the Elysée Palace in mid-May after 12 years in office. The results of various polls released last night suggested that Mr Sarkozy would win the May 6 ballot with between 52 and 54 per cent of the vote against 46 to 48 per cent for Ms Royal....