France: Hollande wins first round elections by narrow margin
April 24, 2012
In the first round of the presidential elections held on 22 April, socialist François Hollande gained 28.6% of the vote, closely followed by incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy who garnered 27.1%. Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Front, exceeded all pollsters expectations by coming third with an 18.1% of the total vote. As neither of the main candidates won the necessary majority, the elections will be decided by a run-off vote between Hollande and Sarkozy on 6 May. Le Pen's surprisingly strong showing makes her support key for the outcome of the elections. However, according to media reports following the elections, she is unlikely to endorse either of the candidates. Thus, Sarkozy will probably try to appeal to more anti-European and anti-immigration voters without alienating more moderate sectors. Supporters of the Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who secured 11.1% of votes cast in the first round, are expected to vote overwhelmingly for Hollande in the second round. Independent surveys give Hollande between 53% and 56% of the votes, whereas Sarkozy would secure between 44% and 47%. Markets seem wary of a potential victory by the Socialist candidate, who has already announced his intentions of renegotiating the Euro area fiscal pact in order to include a commitment to economic growth if elected president. Therefore, French bond yields rose after the election, with the spread over German bonds hovering around the highest level seen this year.