FRANCE: Anti-Islam right wing candidate, Marine Le Pen makes unexpected strong showing in the first round of elections

Now for the bad news. Socialist François Hollande is on target to become president of France after defeating Nicolas Sarkozy in poll which saw extreme-right candidate Marine Le Pen receive record support.

GUARDIAN  François Hollande has moved a step closer to becoming the first Socialist president of France in a generation by beating the incumbent,Nicolas Sarkozy, in the first round of elections for the Elysée. But the surprisingly high vote for the extreme-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, boosted the overall figures for the right and meant that the final runoff vote on 6 May remains on a knife-edge.

Partial results from the beginning of the count showed Hollande – a former Socialist party leader, rural MP and self-styled Mr Normal – with a clear lead at more than 28%, compared with Sarkozy on about 26%. A key victory of the night was for the Front National’s Le Pen, who came third with almost 20% of the vote, easily beating her father Jean-Marie’s record success in 2002, and placing herself firmly at the heart of rightwing politics in France.

She had initially stressed economic issues, calling for France to leave the euro, but in recent days returned to her hard-right stance on curbing immigration. At her final rally in Paris, supporters had shouted “This is our home, our country!”