Socialist presidential challenger François Hollande topped the first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday with 28.4 percent of votes, while incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy finished second with 25.5 percent, according to exit polls. Those figures set up a widely expected run-off between Sarkozy and the candidate of France’s main opposition party who led most voter intentions surveys before the first round.
Exit polls showed Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party, had conquered third place with 18.5% of the vote. Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon took 11.7%, and centrist François Bayrou 8.8%, the Ipsos polling agency said. While the tallies of the two leading candidates were in line with dozens of opinion surveys published before Sunday’s ballot, Le Pen’s figures were well above any of those forecasts.