For the first time, a sitting French president did not win the plurality of votes in the first round:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is wooing far-right voters after losing narrowly to his Socialist rival in the presidential election’s first round.
Francois Hollande came top with 28.6% and Mr Sarkozy got 27.1% — the first time a sitting president has lost in the first round.
Third-place Marine Le Pen took the largest share of the vote her far-right National Front has ever won, with 18%.
Referring to her voters, Mr Sarkozy said: “I have heard you.”
“There was this crisis vote that doubled from one election to another — an answer must be given to this crisis vote,” he said.
Pollsters say Mr Hollande is the clear favourite to win the second round on 6 May, a duel between him and Mr Sarkozy, who leads the centre-right UMP.
If Mr Hollande wins he will become the first Socialist president in France in 17 years
[. . .]
Nearly a fifth of voters backed a party — the National Front — that wants to ditch the euro and return to the franc.
Reacting to the Front’s success on Monday both the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that populist politics was a threat to Europe.
Mrs Merkel said the Front’s “alarming” rise would probably be “ironed out” in the second round. She said she would continue to support Mr Sarkozy.