00:17 GMT +3 hours24 November 2014
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Hollande, Sarkozy Neck and Neck in French Presidential Polls

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(updated 18:28 28.10.2014)
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With almost all ballots counted in French presidential elections, socialist Francois Hollande has 28.61 percent of the vote, while his main rival, conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, is second with 27.08 percent, the French Interior Ministry said on Monday.

With almost all ballots counted in French presidential elections, socialist Francois Hollande has 28.61 percent of the vote, while his main rival, conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, is second with 27.08 percent, the French Interior Ministry said on Monday.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen came third with 18.05 percent, beating far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, who scored 11.12 percent. Centrist Francois Bayrou was fifth with 9.11 percent.

The five other candidates received minimal support of 2 percent or less.

European markets crashed on Monday as Hollande beat President Sarkozy in the first round. Now Hollande and Sarkozy face a runoff on May 6.

Political experts believe the leftists will manage to retain seats in the French parliament, but the political influence of the rightists will continue growing steadily. “It’s enough to receive 15 seats for the leftists to forge a parliamentary fraction, this will not be a big problem for them,” said Gérard Grunberg, professor at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris. A coalition between the leftists and rightists is possible, he added.

“France’s political landscape is changing, and the changes will be unpredictable,” commented Arno Dubuen, head of the Russia-France Center in Moscow.

“The same process is going on all over Europe – boundaries are broadening and parties,who earlier were unpopular, are becoming mainstream,” said Fedor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Policy magazine.

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said no major incidents were reported during Sunday’s vote.

The turnout was about 80 percent, one of the highest results in the history of the Fifth Republic, founded by Charles de Gaulle in 1958.

The Interior Ministry is set to publish official results before 20:00 local time on Wednesday.

A total of 1,629 French citizens cast their ballots in Moscow, where Sarkozy is leading the vote with 44.6 percent (727 votes), the French Embassy reported. Only 332 ballots (20.3 percent) were cast for Hollande, while Bayrou came in third with 13 percent (213 votes). Le Pen garnered 9.5 percent (156 votes), and Melenchon followed with 5.7 percent (94 votes).

Just over half of the eligible voters registered in Moscow (54 percent) have participated in the polls.

Surveys made after polling stations across France closed on Sunday show that Hollande is likely to defeat Sarkozy in the runoff.

A survey by CSA, conducted for the BFMTV channel, RMC radio station and the 20 Minutes newspaper, says that Hollande will receive 56 percent and Sarkozy - 44 percent.

An Ipsos survey for France Television, Radio France and Le Monde gives slightly difference figures of 54 percent for Hollande versus 46 percent for Sarkozy.

Ifop says in its survey for Europe 1 radio station, Paris Match magazine and Public Senat TV channel that Hollande and Sarkozy will get 54.5 and 45.5 percent of the vote, respectively.