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Sarkozy Seeks To Win Over Far-Right Voters

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was seeking support from far-right voters on April 23 after losing to Socialist Francois Hollande in the first round of a presidential vote that saw record support for the extreme-right National Front.

National Front candidate Marine Le Pen did not make it to the second round, but finished third with 18 percent of the vote on April 22.

According to nearly complete official results, Sarkozy won just over 27 percent of the vote and will compete in the second round on May 6 against Hollande, who led the ballot with nearly 29 percent.

Sarkozy indicated on April 23 that the concerns of National Front supporters must be addressed.

"National Front voters must be respected," he said. "They've made a choice. They've expressed a choice. It's a vote of suffering, of crisis, so why insult them?"

European Union officials have voiced concern about the strong support for the National Front -- the latest populist party to perform well in a European election.

Hollande said the presidential poll reflected anger in the country and that he also would listen to far-right supporters.

Marine Le Pen's support was nearly double the 10.4 percent of the vote that her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, received as a candidate in the first round of France's 2007 presidential election.

She told supporters that "the battle of France has just begun" and "nothing will be as it was before."

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the strong support for a National Front candidate was "alarming" and reiterated Merkel's support for Sarkozy in the second round.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement "it is good that the runoff is taking place between two proven democratic candidates."

Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Sarkozy was partly to blame for Le Pen's success after he campaigned for tighter immigration controls and reform of the EU's Schengen visa-free travel area.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said he was concerned by attitudes "against open societies, and an open Europe" which he said were present "not only on the far right, but also on the far left."

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters