Pretoria - French Socialist candidate Francois Hollande and incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy qualified to face off in the run-off vote as the first round of election ended on Sunday night, with the leftist candidate narrowly leading over the conservative President.
With the vote-counting still under way, French Interior Ministry's figures have so far shown that Socialist Hollande had 27.9 percent of the ballot cast and Sarkozy 26.6 percent.
National Front (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen took the third place with about 19.3 percent of the vote until now, attracting a surprisingly high number of voters with her far-right proposals including anti-immigrant policy.
As the first round of votes closes, the two contenders had no time to lose in for vying for the second round face-off.
"I am the candidate to get the French people together for a change," said Hollande at a gathering following the issuing of partial results.
As the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) candidate, Sarkozy showed his supporters he had the determination to run against his arch rival in the second round.
He called for three face-to-face debates with Hollande, "so that the French vote with confidence" he vowed, inviting his supporters to mobilize so as to "start the second round with confidence".
The presidential frontrunners Sarkozy and Hollande are set to resume their duel on 27 April with a series of campaign rallies. A face-to-face television debate is scheduled for 2 May.
The latest poll showed that Hollande would gain 54 percent against Sarkozy's 46 percent in the second round.