French presidential campaigns begin

Official campaigning in France's presidential election begins today; just under two weeks before the first round of voting begins.

This year 12 candidates are competing to gain the prestigious seat with centre-right politician of the UMP party Nicolas Sarkozy looking to lead the race along with Socialist Ségolène Royal.

However with ten other candidates the vote could be split into many fractions and, under the French electoral system, if no candidate wins 50 per cent or more of the public's vote a second round of voting begins on May 6th.

Yet in this second round only the two leading runners from the first election compete.

Voters in France are this year provided with a plethora of candidates from across the political spectrum. Centrist François Bayrou has high hopes after recent polls placed him in third place behind Ms Royal.

Elections in 2007 have also seen the reappearance of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right contender whose success in 2002 saw him raise more votes than the standard left-wing bearer. According to some polls he currently holds the support of 15 per cent of France's electoral with his hard-line stance on immigration, pro-death penalty policies and belief in compulsory military service.

Many political analysts believe fear of far-right success will spark many centre and left-leaning voters to ensure they partake in the upcoming elections.

Current president Jacques Chirac announced last month that he would not run for re-election. The 74-year-old politician has served in the role for 12 years.

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