High turnout in French Elections.

PARIS (AFP) – French voters turned out in force Sunday to choose a new president with rightwinger Nicolas Sarkozy the clear favourite against Socialist Segolene Royal in their duel to win a mandate for sweeping change.Extra police were moved into Paris and its high immigrant suburbs in case a Sarkozy victory sparks trouble, but there was more focus on the huge turnout for the deciding second round.

By noon, 34 percent of France’s 44.5 million eligible voters had cast ballots for a successor to

President Jacques Chirac

who is stepping down after 12 years in office.

This was the highest midday turnout since 1974 and underscored the strong interest in the left-right battle for the Elysee palace. The midday turnout was also up from 31.21 percent in the April 22 first round, the interior ministry said.

Sarkozy, accompanied by his two step daughters, voted in the chic Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, where he was greeted with cheers of “Nicolas president.” His wife Cecilia was not present however.

Royal said the choice for her “had not been difficult” after voting in the town of Melle in western France.

The choice between them is stark. Sarkozy, son of a Hungarian immigrant who has promised a “clean break” with the past, and Royal, the daughter of an army colonel seeking to become France’s first woman president, has vowed to guard France’s welfare state.

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