French candidates approach campaign finish line

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The race for the French presidency entered its last stages tonight as the two candidates held their final rallies.

Socialist favourite Segolene Royal held a rally in Lille while centre-right rival Nicolas Sarkozy held his in Montpellier.

Following last night's televised debate between the two it seems Mr Sarkozy has consolidated his advantage.

The energetic Mr Sarkozy appeared downbeat and patient in the debate while Ms Royal's normally placid tone, equally uncharacteristically, was one of forthright aggressiveness in the debate.

An Opionway poll conducted afterwards found 53 per cent thinking Mr Sarkozy was more convincing, compared to 31 per cent for Ms Royal.

Since the April 22nd first-round vote, in which Mr Sarkozy took 31 per cent to Ms Royal's 25 per cent, the pair have been competing for the 18.5 per cent of votes won by centrist candidate Francois Bayrou and far right favourite Jean-Marie Le Pen's 10.5 per cent.

As 20 million people are believed to have watched the debate its impact on the second round vote, scheduled for this Sunday, is likely to be significant.

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