- Created on Sunday, 06 May 2012 10:46
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France is set to vote in a run-off poll that could see a socialist win a French presidential election for the first time since 1988.
In the first round socialist Francois Hollande won 28.6% of the vote, ahead of incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy on 26.2%.
Rising unemployment and the euro crisis have dominated the campaign.
Mr Sarkozy says he averted recession and will preserve a "strong France". Mr Hollande contends the country is in "serious crisis" and needs change.
Polls in mainland France and Corsica will be open from 08:00 to 18:00 (06:00-16:00 GMT), with voting stations in big cities remaining open for another two hours.
On Wednesday the two rivals took part in a testy debate, watched by an estimated 17.9 million people, and continued to campaign until Friday.
Mr Hollande - who has long been regarded as favourite - said turnout on election day could affect the result.
Mr Sarkozy said no election had ever been so "undecided".
Casting for votes
In the final days, each stepped up his appeals to voters who backed far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Francois Bayrou in the first round.
Ms Le Pen, who attracted 6.4 million voters, has said she would cast a blank ballot but called on supporters to "vote according to their conscience".
Mr Bayrou, who attracted almost 9% of the first-round vote on 22 April, said he would back Mr Hollande in the second.
The socialist candidate has also been endorsed by hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who won 11% of the vote.
President Sarkozy, who has been in office since 2007, has promised to reduce France's large budget deficit and to tax people who leave the country for tax reasons.
Mr Hollande, for his part, has promised to raise taxes on big corporations and people earning more than 1m euros a year.
He wants to raise the minimum wage, hire 60,000 more teachers and lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some workers.
If elected, Mr Hollande would be France's first left-wing president since Francois Mitterrand, who completed two seven-year terms between 1981 and 1995.
It would also be the first time an incumbent president has lost a re-election bid in France since Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1981.
The presidential vote will be followed by a parliamentary election in June.