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Voting kicks off in France's overseas polling stations

(Xinhua)

12:45, April 22, 2012

PARIS, April 21 (Xinhua) -- French voters in the overseas department and territories on Saturday began to participate in the first round 2012 presidential election by casting their ballots in France's overseas polling stations.

On mainland of France, the first round of voting is scheduled to officially starting at 8:00 a.m. (0600 GMT) Sunday morning. Owing to the time difference from Paris, some of the 4,923 registered voters in the French islands of St Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast of Canada, have already cast their ballots at Paris' noon time, French media reported.

They will be followed by other eligible voters, altogether 882,000 overseas voters, scattering in France's overseas departments and territories in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans areas, according to local radio RFI.

Local media said overseas early voting is needed because the results should be made known to the public at 8:00 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Sunday, exactly the moment when polling booths on the mainland shut up.

In total, approximately 44.5 million French people will vote in 85,000 polling stations on Sunday to choose two leading winners out of 10 presidential candidates for a second round's face-off on May 6.

Commission Nationale de Controle de la Campagne (CNCCEP), an institution that regulates pollsters, has earlier warned that France would adopt tough measures on early leaks of estimated results, imposing fine up to 75,000 euros (98,250 U.S. dollars) on those who publish the exit poll or election results ahead of the official announcement.

Nine pollsters promised Friday no early release of results before all polling stations close.

A latest IFOP polling survey showed that French incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy is neck and neck with Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in opinion polls in the first round.

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