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Europe

To Vote or not to Vote

Almost half of France's 40 million voters haven't decided who to vote for or whether to vote at all as the country goes to the polls today in the first round of presidential elections.

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Might as well do it

How many French citizens will leave their homes today to vote as it’s said with their hearts?

If expert estimates are to be believed, almost 30 percent of the French population may abstain from voting as the country goes to the polls today in the first round of presidential elections. That would amount to a record low voter turnout.

Jacques Chirac wird geklebt

An official campaign poster of French President and presidential candidate Jacques Chirac

Despite their lack-lustre election campaigns, France’s Gaullist President Jacques Chirac (picture), bidding for a second term after a seven-year stint in the Elysee Palace and his Socialist opponent, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin are the frontrunners in a record field of 16 candidates, most of them competing for protest votes.

Opinion polls give president Jacques Chirac a slight lead on the eve of the first vote, putting his support at around 20 percent.

The conservative Chirac has retained popularity despite recent sleaze allegations. Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin is second favourite, with 18 percent. His government boasts a good record on the economy, but some voters think he lacks the necessary charisma to be president.

Third in the polls is the controversial nationalist Jean Marie Le Pen with 14 percent.

But French voters so far have appeared bored and indifferent to the election campaign and unimpressed by the two main candidates.

They have little to choose between the policies offered by the two frontrunners.

Recent opinion polls have shown more than one in two voters are uninterested in a campaign extensively dominated by two men who competed for the presidency in 1995 and ended up having to lead France together since 1997.

Der französische Premierminister Lionel Jospin

Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin

Both Chirac and Jospin(picture) have made the fight against crime a key issue in their campaigns.

Today’s vote is not expected to produce a clear winner – rather it will reduce the field to the final two candidates for the second round of voting in two weeks’ time.

But experts expect today’s vote to also yield sizeable votes for extremist parties.

The winner of this presidential election will only serve five, rather than seven years.

Official results are not expected until Monday morning.

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