Sarkozy, Royal Win First Round in French Presidential Poll

Preliminary results show conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Segolene Royal have won the first round of voting in the French presidential election. Sarkozy, the former Interior Minister, held the lead with about 30 per cent of the vote. Royal trailed with about 25 percent. Anita Elash reports for VOA from Paris.

Pollsters had predicted that Segolene Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy would win in the first round, but there was also a large number of undecided voters and that raised questions about whether one of the alternate candidates would bump either of the front-runners. But neither of the potential spoilers came close. Centrist Francois Bayrou and far right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen finished a distant third and fourth.

After the early results were announced, Sarkozy appealed to voters for support.

He said that by putting him in first place and Royal in second, voters have said clearly that they want a full debate between two ideas of the nation, two value systems and two ideas about politics.

Royal made her speech in Melle, in southwestern France.

Voters have a clear choice on May 6 between two very different voices, she said. She said she was extending her hand to everyone who believes that the French must

change a system that no longer works.

Nearly 45 million eligible Frenchmen registered to vote and 85 percent of those turned up at the polls.

The run -off election between Sarkozy and Royal takes place in two weeks, on May 6.