21 Apr 2012

First round of presidential elections in France

8:01 am on 21 April 2012

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is bracing for defeat this weekend, when voting is held in the first round of presidential elections.

If he's toppled he will be the first one-term president in more than 30 years.

The ABC reports that Mr Sarkozy and Mr Francois Hollande are neck and neck in the polls. Marine Le Pen is third.

While the first round election on Sunday is too close to call, projections for the run-off on 6 May put Mr Hollande a clear front-runner.

However, the polls also suggest nearly a quarter of voters are yet to make up their minds.

Campaigning has focused on the economy. Both candidates have promised to rein in public spending and cut the deficit. But the two differ sharply over the crisis in the eurozone.

Mr Hollande told Europe 1 radio on Friday that the country's budget woes were the result of five years of Mr Sarkozy's policies

Mr Sarkozy said he had helped steer the eurozone through the worst of the debt crisis, making him the safest pair of hands.