Voting begins in French election
April 22, 2007 7:29am CST
Polls have opened in France in a presidential election seen as the nation's most unpredictable in decades. Voting began at 0800 (0600 GMT), with 12 hopefuls seeking a spot in the second-round run-off on 6 May. The leading candidates are centre-right Nicolas Sarkozy, socialist Segolene Royal, centrist Francois Bayrou and far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. French citizens living abroad have already been to the polls, in a bid to make sure all votes count. Of the main candidates, the right-wing Nicolas Sarkozy has promised a "rupture" with the past and real economic reform. Socialist Segolene Royal, hoping to become France's first female president, has pledged a fairer society, while the centrist Francois Bayrou has said he would bring together left and right in a government of national unity. The 78-year-old far-right leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has seen many of his ideas on patriotism and immigration filter into the mainstream campaigns. He has confidently predicted he will enter the second round run-off again, as he did in the last presidential elections in 2002.