On Sunday, Nicolas Sarkozy's fate will be decided, as France goes to the polls to vote on its next president. The official results of the presidential election are schedule to come in at 2:00pm EST.
PolicyMic will be providing live updates as they come in. Check back and refresh this page for real-time results.
14:15 pm ET
Well, you can continue looking for live-covergae of the ensuing fall-out from the french election on wwww.france24.com or here, in an hour, on PolicyMic.
Essentially, the deed is done and a new political era has arrived in France.
Let's hope it will be one that will prove up to the measure of the task in hand.
14:06 pm ET
French Socialists are celebrating this historic win, heading to the Place de la Bastille in Paris to hear Hollande speak later this evening. Sarkozy will give a concession speech at Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Currently watching a downcast the UMP Secretary General, who is saying this was a 'difficult' campaign depsite 'many obstacles'. It should be mentioned that many of these 'obstacles' are self-inflicted.
14:01 pm ET
Well, the French election is over. The result was predictable but in the end - if you did not look at the early exit polls - it was very exciting.
The crowds in Hollande's home departement is amazing. Shouting, rejoicing and - of course - the obligatory cups of champagne.
A Socialist has won the Presidency for the first time in 17 years. Absolutely incredible.
He won with 51.9% of the votes, whereas Sarkozy won with 48.1% of the vote. Razor sharp result.
14:00 pm ET / 20:00 (Paris time)
The result is in: François Hollande will be the next President of the French Republic.
The screen shows his face and the crowds across France are going wild in celebration.
The first Socialist President in 17 years, it is an historic and - possibly - era defining evening. He has triumphed in the face of - at times - many setbacks in his political life but this is his moment.
It has been a tough campaign, at times unpredictable but the polls held steady and despite a late surge, it was Hollande who won. He got in under the wire, but it's the win that counts and tonight he has undoubtedly won.
As for Nicolas Sarkozy, he fought hard, he fought fiercely but at the end of the day, it was not enough to convince the electorate. His evening will be one of reflection and thought on what went wrong and - importantly - what his legacy will now be.
But Hollande triumphs in this hotly contested election.
13: 53 pm ET
Next update on this blog will be the unveiling of the French election results at 14:00 ET / 20:00 (Paris time), stay tuned.
13:52 pm ET
If we look at a Sarkozy win scenario, then he will undoubtedly be the greatest political ressucitation of modern French politics but he will have to face a cohabitiation with a Socialist Prime Minister and parliament.
One pannelist refers to a Sarkozy winning as possibly being a 'Right wing wave witout a tide"...essentially a single, one-off, bucking of the trend.
If he loses, Sarkozy has pledged to cease political life but this - given Sarkozy's instincts - as unlikely.
13:50 pm ET
A panel on France24 is discussing whether - if Hollande wins - it will be a Political renaissance for his Socialist party or, taken into account the dire economic situation, Political suicide.
This is a very pertinent point.
What a chalice. What a potential poison.
13:35 pm ET
My PolicyMic colleague and fellow french politics fanatic - Dyna Nyma - has published a piece here on our website saying that the results will be unveiled before the official 20:00 time on Twitter and across social media.
As she explains:
"The only data released during the day, by the authorities, is the voters’ participation. Indeed by 5 p.m. the Interior Ministry reported a turnout for the second round of the presidential election of 71.9%, in France metropolis. This figure is higher than the 70.59% recorded at the same time in the first round, but it is lower than 2007 score (75.11%).
In the meantime, while the authorities are preciously keeping the information regarding the winner of the the presidential election, when they finally unveil his name most French will probably know already."
I - on the other hand - remain a die hard (maybe somewhat anachronistically) supporter of waiting until the 8pm deadline. Like Christmas, it heightens suspense and makes for an exilirating wait.
Why ruin a once-in-five-years Christmas present a few minutes early?
13:30 pm ET
If Nicolas Sarkozy loses, will this lead to the implosion of the French Right?
This is certainly an issue and one that Marine Le Pen is betting heavily on. With the Right is disarray she would be in pole position to realign her FN party along more palatable lines. A very dangerous move for the right wing party - the UMP - in France.
In the event, a far more telling sign of FN encroachement will be the forthcoming legislative elections, in which seats may be won by the Far Right party, especially in the North of France.
With 17.5% of the vote, Marine Le Pen has a solid base to project her political ambitions; she is a young leader with a long road ahead. Worryingly for France she might be attracting more voters, disenchanted with mainstream political parties.
A theme for the next five years, no doubt.
13:20 pm ET
In the Socialist camp, supporters are shouting: "We are going to win" with a febrile, very jubilant athmosphere starting to emerge. But Socialist leaders are still urging caution.
In the UMP camp - Nicolas Sarkozy's party - the chant is: "Send Hollande back to correze" (His home region) among a frowing sea of French flags.
But all is yet to be seen, where will the party start and where will the party come to an end. Stay tuned.
13:15 pm ET
The first estimates of the vote will be announced at 20:00 (Paris time) // 14:00 pm ET.
They will be refined throughout the evening but should provide a definite indication of whom will win the French Presidency.
13:10 pm ET
If Francois Hollande wins, then it will be a historic occasion.
There has not been a left-wing President for 17 years, since the election of Jacques Chirac in 1995, in which he replaced Francois Mitterrand. Interestingly, if Hollande wins he will only be the second Socialist to win the Presidency since the establishment of the Fifth Republic by Charles De Gaulle in 1958.
Admittedly, Mitterrand did have 14 years in power - as then each mandate was not for five but seven years. This was modified under Jacques Chirac; and subsequently under Nicolas Sarkozy to limit terms to two in office.
13:05 pm ET
The Guardina newspaper has another interesting article with regards to the French election. Namely, that farmers seem to feel that they are no longer important.
But many remain staunchly center-right.
"So Sarkozy has their vote; in part, too, because Hollande "is just too soft", says Rachel. "He doesn't command respect. I can't see him uniting a team, directing anything. Particularly faced with the scale of the crisis the world is in." If Hollande is elected, says Manu, a great deal will depend on who he appoints as prime minister, and the risks will be high: "We could end up like Spain, or Greece."
13:01 pm ET
Less than an hour to go now, before results are unveiled.
Exit poll data is banned from publication before the results are announced; but at the last poll it was Francois Hollande that was in the lead.
13:00 pm ET
What are the major perks of the French Presidency. Other than being Le Boss in France, you are also immune form any legal action over any acts carried out whilst in office.
You are also ex-ufficio Grand Master of the Legion of Honour and the Legion of Merit; co-Prince of Andorra; and the highest Magistrate in France able to pardon convicts.
Not bad in terms of a job description.
12:50 pm ET
It is somewhat ironic that France stands at the very heart of the EU - politically and economically - alongside Germany. However, both candidates have sought to distance themeselves from Brussels in this election period.
This is to avoid being stigmatized as being 'close' to themes and policies that many French perceive as hurting them economically.
Undoubtedly - in spite of the rhetoric - France will continue under whichever of the two candidates, to play a key role in the EU. It may all prove very much, like hot air.
12:45 pm ET
Some french commentators are reflecting on the fact that the French campaign was heavily domestic in nature and ficused little on key foreign policy issues.
Maybe that's true; but it should be remembered that all elections tend to be domestic in orientation and France faces key decisions in its domestic policies over the next five years.
Admittedly, the two candidates did spend an inordinate amount of time throwing political mud at one another, rather than engage with policies or solutions.
12:41 pm ET
Unsurprisingly, Nicolas Sarkozy is holding his post-Elections rally in Paris.
If he loses, he will be leaving the Presidential palace on the 15th of May, but he will until then be a lame-duck President.
If he wins, it will be the greates comeback in French political history.
12:40 pm ET
Francois Hollande is in his elctoral heartland - the French departement of Corrèze, in the town of Tulle.
It is fromt here that he will make the acceptance / concession speech as and when the results are announced.
12:33 pm ET
20.1% of abstention is being recorded as occurring, by French media.
12:31 pm ET
20 million French people tuned in to the debate and 36 million (Or thereabouts, roughly speaking) are expected to vote in this election.
This includes those overseas in nations such as Canada, Brazil or the UK. Their votes have equal weight under the direct suffrage system. Polling stations will be set up in French Consulates and Embassies worldwide to that effect.
12:30 pm ET
French media is killing time by reporting on polling days out for the family.
Apparently, one little boy asked if he could vote twice; and it was nicely explained to him that it was not possible under French law. I don’t think this applied in Florida in 2000.
12:20 pm ET
What can we expect in the forthcoming French national political agenda when these elections are over. Barring individual policies, here are some common generic elements that both candidates will need to address with great urgency:
The Economy and economic growth – This is key to a future successful presidency. By bringing down unemployment, staving off recession and tackling the growing budgetary deficit, France can weather the fiscal storm. A future President would ignore this at their peril.
Afghanistan – What to do in Afghanistan, whether staying long-term and following U.S. leadership on withdrawal or, instead, implementing a unilateral withdrawal agenda. Debate rages in France and needs to be put to rest.
Societal Unity – Combating the National Front’s divisive rhetoric and addressing key issues including feelings of social disenfranchisement must be tackled.
Critically, the next five years of the forthcoming French President will be ones of crisis management not laissez-faire economic attitude. There are important decisions to be made, that cannot be put off or ignored; painful choices will be made and adhered to.
12:15 pm ET
French ministry of the interior estimates that there will be a voter turnout of 81.5% which – if correct – would beat the turnout of the 2005 election (77.5%).
In French education, the role of civic-education is incredibly important. It is something that s heavily inculcated into young French people from a very young age, namely the right to vote is a ‘right’ but also a ‘duty’, which helps shape the very core of French democracy.
Traditionally, French elections are subject to more turnout in the second round of the suffrage.
12:05 pm ET
What of the National Front and the Far Right? Votes Sarkozy has been counting on to make his come back in the second round - where will they go following the fall of their candidate (Marine Le Pen) at the first round hurdle?
According to past polls, 44% of her vote will transfer over to Nicolas Sarkozy and 18% for Hollande. The rest will either choose to stay away on polling day or abstain at the ballot box; as their leader will do.
Of those that vote, however, many will vote for Sarkozy not because they like the man, but because they loathe Hollande. It will be a holding-their-nose experience. France24 has an excellent article (in French), in which a FN voter of the constituency in which Marine Le Pen has based her campaign - Hénin-Beaumont - HQ says: "There I voted and completed my civic duty; because I had to"
Hardly a ringing endorsement of Nicolas Sarkozy's much publcized swerve to the Right.
11:55 am ET
There is little love lost between Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy. After all, Sarkozy openly stated Hollande was 'a little slanderer' during the Presidential Debate on Wednesday; with Hollande then seeking to depict the President as being a divisive force in France and - essentially - unfit to rule.
In an interview given on Thursday, Hollande argued that Sarkozy has created many divisions in France and even tarnished its reputation abroad: "There were statements, postures, attitudes, choices that have hurt our country and sometimes caused trouble internationally.”
The full story and accompanying video interview can be found here.
11:45 am ET
Francois Hollande may have been quite dismissive, even critical, at times of Sarkozy's very cosy relationship with Angela Merkel - the Germany Chancellor - in the so called 'Merkozy' pact. However, Hollande has recently announced that his first foreign trip within possibly a day or two of being elected, would be to Berlin.
The Franco-German Partnership has been at the crux of modern Europe and the Euroepan Union. These one time foes are now deeply synchronised in step. This ahs been the case throughout Sarkozy's Presidency and even more marked in the last two years, with the advent of the financial crisis.
Will Hollande seek to change that? Unlikely. He will - most certainly - put on a show of possible renegotitation, but if he is elected he will be confronted no doubt with the harsh relaity of the biting sums. That will hurt.
No wonder therefore that he has set a course Eastwards and to Berlin, should be he be successful in his campaign.
11:40 am ET
Only two hours and a half to go before the winner is unveiled in the French Presidential Election.
France has very strict rules about what can and cannot be published before the results are announced, unfortunately that includes an absolute prohibition on exit poll data.
However, for a little reminder of how the candidates were polling before Saturday, the last poll predicted 52% for Hollande and 48% for Sarkozy. A 4% majority, which also falls significantly within the margin of error. It's simply too close to call.
The British newspaper - The Guardian - also has an interesting story suggesting Sarkozy could yet win.
11:30 am ET
Figures just in from www.france24.com
There ahs been a 71.96% voter turnout, thus far, in the French Presidential election. Again, a demonstration of a strong committment by most people in France to perform a very necessary civic duty.
By the way, France's Presidential election is governed by direct sufferage and the candidate with the most votes win. No messy electoral votes, or second choices, just straight win or lose.
11:25 am ET
PolicyMic Editor-at-large (Well, for a few days), Chris Miles, has sent in this report from the beating and pulsating heart of the Eurozone: Germany.
Germany has been a core theme is the French election, should France be more or less like Germany; do the French like or disklike Germany; and why do the Germans get to put their economic towels down first on the fiscal sunlounger of choice in the economic crisis hotel?
Here's his take - "Hallo von Deustchland":
" In the French and Greek elections, it seems like the real enemy isn’t necessarily the opposing party, but rather Germany and the strict austerity which German Chancellor Angela Merkel has forced on the wider euro zone.
I’m traveling in Germany this week and the French and Greek elections have only been an afterthought in most political conversations I’ve had. Germans know that the two countries are voting, but it doesn’t seem to be of Earth-shattering importance (though, one could argue to these Germans that the very fate of the euro zone system is at stake today).
Instead they bemoan the fact that they’ve had to take a leadership role in all of this: they hate the continued Greek bailouts (why can’t those Greeks just get their house in order, why do we have to pay for them), they can’t stand that France won’t just fall in line and do what (they think) is right for the EU, they hate that Merkel has seemingly quit governing Germany and now instead governs all of Europe.
Still, you can’t say that the Germans don’t agree with what is happening in France and Greece. Those elections are focused on ending business as usual in the euro zone. Greeks and French alike seem to hate what has become of the euro. And the Germans agree.
The average Germans hates – despises — the euro. Why can’t we just have the Deutsch Mark back, they wonder. Things were simpler then.
Are all Europeans in this together? Yes and no. I think each side is looking for the same objective — a change in the euro zone — but nobody really knows how to achieve that."
A big thank-you for a tremendous piece of work by Chris Miles. Great insight.
Tweet to @PolicyMic or @WilliamHDBauer, or comment underneath.
11:15 am ET
In the red corner, we have François Hollande, the Socialist party challenger for the Presidency who - in the last opinion poll before election day - looked to be winning by a razor-thin majority over the incumbent President.
He is - figuratively speaking - political foie-gras: slightly fatty and the product of an over-fattened Political goose of a party, he is loved by many French people; whilst being somewhat unpalatable to foreign palates, specifically Anglo-Saxon ones.
That, in a nutshell, is Hollande. Liked at home but largely derided abroad. His political careers, thus far, has featured no high ministerial post or position of responsibility within government. He was - for eleven years - the First Secretary of the Socialist Party in France. He was also the partner of former French Presidential contender Ségolène Royal, defeated by President Sarkozy in his 2007 election victory. The irony is highly palpable.
Hollande has made many promises to his voters. A promise to scale back austerity measures in France, to renegotiate the Eurozone fiscal compact, to hire more civil-servants and teachers, and to bring French soldiers home from Afghanistan by the end of this year. However, by far the most internationally known of his policies, has been his pledge to tax all income over one million euros in France at 75%. Sacrebleu!
The Economist recently branded him 'The rather dangerous Mr Hollande', for the potential damage him and his Socialist party could inflict on a country with a public sector that occupies already 56% of GDP. That remains to be seen.
In many ways, Hollande has benefited from two influences. Firstly, the fall of DSK in French poltics, almost a year ago, clearing the way for him to assume the Presidential nomination of the Socialist party. This comes hand in hand with the rampant unpopularity of Nicolas Sarkozy, with many French betraying a 'Anything, but him' voting strategy. It might be that Hollande is the rather lucky Mr Hollande. But will the office he seeks, turn into a poisoned chalice if and when he takes the oath, settles down and sees the facts and figures.
This, sadly, is not known. What is certain, is that he was on a perceived winning streak on Friday. Will this hold? It is truly nail-biting.
10:50 am ET
Before we go any further. I think we should introduce the two candidates who will be hashing it out tonight.
Here's the first profile:
In the blue Corner is incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy. Famed for his large political abilities despite his rather small stature, Sarkozy is the modern incarnation of the political animal. He reeks of intrigue and cloak-and-dagger politics. In 2007, he won the Presidency he so coveted from his one-time mentor Jacques Chirac (Who had grown to despise him for lack of political loyatly).
His vision was for a France free from the red-tape, bureaucracy and perceived anti-competitve spirit. He wanted - in as many words and gestures - to make France a modern, competitive economy. To this end he introduced reforms, confronted unions and achieved - well, nothing substantially era-defining except a raise in two years on the state pension age. Opposition to him grew and his one major strength of political intrigue and survival at all costs, became a weakness as he was popularly perceived as arrogant and out-of-touch.
Today, Sarkozy is reviled by many across France; accused of presiding over a deep economic crisis and climbing unemployment. Many French now fondly recollect the prosperous days of the less energetic, more relaxed and gentile, Jacques Chirac. To them, Sarkozy had morphed from committed, energetic and politically-fresh outsider to a parvenu, a man whose flashy and glitzy displays of wealth (A Rolex and holidaying with rich friends) has alienated many former supporters.
Will he survive to win tonight? Well, Nicolas Sarkozy can boast of having superb Foreign Policy credentials. He is the President - since De Gaulle - that ahs had the most lasting impact on the World Stage. But to many French he remains the man who presided over economic uncertainty and hikes in prices, unemployment and living costs.
It may be this is the image that endures with the average voter at the voting booth today.
10:30 am ET
So - I hear you all cry - why are the French Elections so important? Why, after all, do we care who the French choose as their President.
Firstly, it's important to note that a French President is a hugely powerful political creature. The scope of his powers broadly mirrors those of a U.S. President. Therefore he is - in French terms - Le Boss. The buck stops with him.
Combine this with the fact that France is a key country in the current Eurozone fiscal compact enforcement; the leader in Europe alongside Germany; the ninth-biggest world economy. France is also - rather less poetically - a country which faces enormously tough choices economically, and could very easily go down the road of Spain, Ireland or Greece without careful fiscal management. What happens here could speel out the future of many other nations both in Europe and worldwide.
Equally, since the Presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy France has stalked the land of the big beasts in terms of foreign affairs. Libya, Georgia, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Mauritania, Mali, Syria and plenty of other countries have experienced French diplomatic involvement, but also sometimes armed action.
France is a strategic NATO member in Afghanistan, having over 23,000 troops on the ground. Francois Hollande has advocated pulling them all out by the end of 2012, ahead of Barack Obama's planend withdrawal dates. France therefore has a role in making the NATO end of operations in Afghanistan look either orderly or more like a rout.
Therefore France is not just a nation famous for haute-cuisine, lovely ladies, amour and 1968; but also a country at the political and economic cutting edge of the financial crisis sweeping Europe, as well as being strategically strong and active in many ways throughout the world. What happens in this election has the power to change all that.
Agree or disagree with me? Tweet to @WilliamHDBauer or comment underneath.
10:00 am ET
Good Morning Everyone and welcome to France: Décision 2012
This has been a nailbiting, thrilling and - ultimately - delibrately polarising campaign. Featuringhighs and lows, swings and roundabouts, rumour and counter-rumour. But the campaigns are wound up, the stump speeches done, the candidates at home. Now, it is the ordinary people of France who will have their say.
Queuing outside Polling Stations they face a choice of two candidates: the incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy or the presumptive favourite François Hollande. Their fate now rests in those white papers being cast by the electorate of France.
In this blog, we aim to bring you analysis, comment and - occasionally - a dash of insight, to these very important elections.
Results are expected at 20:00 (Paris time) or 14:00 (East Coast Time).
If you want to comment or tweet to us, then use @PolicyMic or @WilliamHDBauer.
Allons-y / Let's Go
BACKGROUND: Barring an unforseen turn of events, Nicolas Sarkozy is widely expected to lose the election to Socialist candidate Francois Hollande. Hollande won the first round of elections on April 22, and remains the front-runner in all the opinion polls. However, Sarkozy has managed to close the gap between the two candidates, and the latest polls show the incumbent president behind by as little as four points.
The latest polls say 52% of votes will go to Hollande and 48% to Sarkozy (Source: I FOP); Sarkozy is banking on convincing far right voters that he is the right man for the economy and for France's future.
In the first round of voting, Sarkozy became the first president to finish second in the first round of voters. Marine Le Pen surprised pundits by gaining 18% of the vote, not enough to move to the second round, but a sizeable number that may determine the election. How her anti-immigrant, anti-euro coalition performs may determine the election. She has told voters she will cast a blank vote.
If Sarkozy can lure approximately 65% of Le Pen's votes, he can win.