Exit polls in French elections are always incredibly accurate - and the earliest exit polls in the current presidential election are handing the victory to rightwinger Nicolas Sarkozy.
There was supressed excitement at the right-wing UMP leader’s campaign party headquarters in Paris, as the polls published by the Tribune de Genève website, gave Mr Sarkozy, 52, between 53-55 per cent of the vote, well ahead of his Socialist rival, Ségolène.The turnout was high at 75% and Sarkozy seems to have gained victory because supporters of the centrist Francois Bayrou had abstained while supporters of racist rightwing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen had ignored their leader's call to sit out the election with three quarters of them voting for Sarkozy.
The margin of victory appeared to be heading for an historic high - the biggest in a Right-Left presidential election since Charles De Gaulle’s defeat of Francois Mitterand in 1965.
Although official exit polls are expected shortly after 7 pm UK time, when the last polling booths shut, the early figures left little room for doubt that the 52-year old favourite had won the battle to succeed Jacques Chirac after 12 years in power.
"Sarko" has always been a member of the xenophobic French right despite being the son of immigrants, so it comes as no surprise that Le Pen's neo-Nazis support him in droves. His harsh rhetoric over riots in Paris in 2005 were blamed for making matters worse and worried more centrist politicians even in his own conservative UMP Party who thought they saw a tendency to crack under pressure.
Sarkozy will now succeed Jaques Chirac, another conservative who was President from 1995 and before that Prime Minister from 1986. Yet still the American right like to portray France as essentially a socialist nation and ascribe any failures of order or economy to socialist policies.
(Mind you, some on the American right seem to believe Sarkozy is a centrist or moderate...and that the UK's Daily Telegraph is left-leaning.)
Update The official exit polls are now out, and yes it's Sarkozy.
Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy has won the French presidential election, according to projections made from partial results.Decades of French conservative mismanagement will now continue.
Mr Sarkozy is estimated to have won 53% of the vote, compared to 47% for socialist Segolene Royal.
The turnout was the highest in decades at 85.5%.