French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy leave after casting their votes in Paris, April …
The French presidential election appears to be headed to a runoff.
Exit polls cited by French television in Sunday's first round of voting show President Nicolas Sarkozy losing by a thin margin to Socialist challenger Francois Hollande. According to CNN, Sarkozy captured 25.5 percent of the vote, while Hollande took 28.4 percent.
Marine Le Pen, an extreme conservative, came in third with about 20 percent, exit polls showed. Jean-Luc Melenchon, a liberal, was in fourth with 11.7 percent; Francois Bayrou finished fifth.
If no candidate wins an absolute majority, French law requires a runoff between the top two candidates.
The runoff is scheduled for May 6.
"We must bring together the left, and before we bring together the left, we must bring together the Socialists," Hollande told reporters early Sunday. "It's a process, and I think that I have the capacity to do it."
Sarkozy's supporters have been downplaying Sunday's results while looking ahead to the runoff.
"Tomorrow begins a new battle, a new match," Jeannette Bougrab, a member of Sarkozy's UMP party, said, according to the New York Times.
Sarkozy has held the French presidency since 2007. As is the case in the U.S., the economy and jobs have been major issues in the 2012 French election.
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