Hollande, Sarkozy Advance to Second Round

Incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and his left-wing challenger, François Hollande, win the first round of France’s presidential election.

Incumbent French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his main, Socialist Party rival François Hollande advanced to the second round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday after winning 27 and 28.6 percent of the vote respectively. Official results were released on Monday.

The two were expected to enter a runoff but far-right candidate Marine Le Pen came in a surprisingly strong third with nearly 18 percent of the vote. Turnout was high at over 80 percent.

The incumbent had gained ground on his left-wing challenger in recent months but opinion polls continue to give Hollande a comfortable, double digit lead over the conservative for the second round in the election which is scheduled to take place on May 6.

Hollande notably tried to rally far-right voters to his cause in his victory speech on Sunday night when he ascribed the Front national‘s rise to President Sarkozy’s supposed squandering of France’s national pride. He also said that the conservative had “divided” the country with extremist right-wing rhetoric.

In an appeal to far-left voters whom he hopes will turn out for him in the second round, Hollande promised to put the national interest over “privilege.” Despite his call for “unity,” the Socialist Party candidate has vowed to fight “the world of finance” and proposed a punitive 75 percent income tax rates for millionaires.

Sarkozy reiterated his populist push in his election night speech. “I know that in this world which is moving so fast, the worry of our citizens to maintain their way of life is the central question in this election,” he said, adding that he alone had the “responsibility to protect the French people for the next five years.”

Sarkozy would be the second French president to lose reelection since Charles de Gaule founded the Fifth Republic in 1958. Hollande would be the first socialist to be elected to lead the nation since François Mitterrand defeated the centrist Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in 1981.

This post was updated with new information.