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April 23, 2012

Strong turnout for French election

French President Nicolas Sarkozy must contend with nine opponents in presidential election. (UPI/Eco Clement)

PARIS (UPI) -- Exit polls say voter turnout by midday Sunday was strong in France's presidential election, which pits incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy against nine challengers.

By midday, 28.29 percent of voters had cast ballots, and even though that's down from 30.88 percent at the same time during the last presidential election, The Wall Street Journal said it indicates a strong showing.

Opinion polls last week suggested Sarkozy trails front-runner Socialist Francois Hollande, 25 percent to 28 percent in an election where the economy and jobs have been key issues, CNN reported. France has had low economic growth and a 13-year high 10 percent unemployment rate.

Sarkozy told Le Figaro newspaper he would implement new strategies for economic growth and job creation, pointing out that France has seen signs of recovery this year. If he loses, he would be the 11th euro-zone head of state ousted since the sovereign-debt crisis began, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Hollande on Friday told French radio station Europe 1 that cutting the European Central Bank rate is crucial to improving the economy.

"There are two ways we can go. The first is to lower interest rates if we indeed believe this is a way to support growth. And I believe it is, and that the European Central Bank should go in that direction," Hollande said. The second way, "would be to lend directly to states themselves, rather than the chosen path, which has been to support the banks."

If no candidate wins an absolute majority in the polls, a runoff between the two front-runners would take place May 6, CNN said.

If the election goes to a runoff, polls indicate Hollande would pick up a resounding victory in the second round, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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