France readies for poll, Sarkozy closes on Hollande

PARIS - Campaigning ended on Saturday in France for a decisive second-round presidential vote expected to crown Mr Francois Hollande the country's first Socialist leader in two decades despite polls showing President Nicolas Sarkozy clawing back some ground.

Sunday's election, which coincides with parliamentary polls in Greece, may prove decisive for the direction of Europe as Mr Hollande has promised he will try to temper a German-led austerity drive across Europe and reorientate the recession-struck euro zone towards growth.

Mr Sarkozy, who became the first sitting president of modern times to finish second in a presidential first round vote, must overcome high disapproval rates because of his abrasive style.

If he did win, it would be a political sensation after a whirlwind campaign by the man many voters blame for stubbornly high unemployment, running at a 12-year high of nearly 10 per cent, and France's stagnant economy.

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