French President Nicolas Sarkozy, running six or seven percentage votes behind Socialist rival Francois Hollande, has nonetheless predicted he will win Sunday’s poll in one of the most contentious presidential elections in recent years.
The France 24 network reported that voter turnout amounted to about 72 percent as of 5 p.m. Paris time (11 a.m. EDT), citing data from the Interior Ministry.
However, that figure pales in comparison to the nearly 84 percent turnout recorded during both rounds of the 2007 presidential election which put Sarkozy in power the first time.
Meanwhile, Sarkozy is convinced that the polls are wrong and he can win a second term.
According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper of Britain, Sarkozy telephoned former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and told him: Something's happening, Mr. Prime Minister, I assure you, [pollster] Ifop says it's still doable for me.
Earlier he said: It will be very, very close. The results risk being contested, like for [former U.S. president George W.] Bush in Florida. It will be on a razor's edge.
Despite his lead in the polls, Hollande is cautious, amidst some reports that support for Sarkozy may be surging in recent days.
It's going to be a long day. It's up to the French people to decide if it's going to be a good day, he told reporters in Tulle, in central France.
Even Hollande’s spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem expressed her fears by stating: Thank goodness the campaign doesn't last another week.”
A voter in Paris’ Left Bank named Mathias told the Telegraph: I'm voting François Hollande. I hope he wins, but it will get closer tonight. He stands a good chance. If Sarkozy wins, I think we're in real trouble given the campaign he ran between the two rounds, the atmosphere is going to be hateful. He has overstepped the mark of intolerance, disrespect and 'vivre ensemble' [living together], so I we need to get back to a more healthy, balanced society. That malaise won't be resolved if he is re-elected.
Another Hollande supporter named Christine said: “I hope the victory will be clear. Sarkozy scared many people, who are likely to turn out. If he wins, I will be very depressed. We really need a breath of fresh air in this country.
However, a woman named Deborah in Les Lilas, east of Paris, expressed her support for Sarkozy.
He's the only one who can get us out of the economic crisis,” she said.
“He saved from the worst. We could have ended up like Greece or Spain. And I just don't think Hollande is up to the task.
On Friday, Sarkozy received a bitter blow when centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, who won 9 percent of the vote in the first round of the election, threw his support behind Hollande. Hollande also received the endorsement of extreme-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who won 11 percent of the first round vote.
As a result, Sarkozy will have to count heavily on getting some of the votes that went to Marine Le Pen of the extreme right-wing National Front in the first round.
However, Le Pen, who grabbed an unprecedented 18 percent of the first-round vote, has refused to endorse either Sarkozy or Hollande and said she will cast a blank ballot as a form of protest.