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Sarkozy, Royal Face Runoff in France

: Eleanor Beardsley reports.


ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Segolene Royal's supporters exploded in joy Sunday evening as they learned their candidate had made it to the second round. Royal came in second behind Nicolas Sarkozy. Jean Delanois(ph) was one of the thousands of Segolene fans who crowded the street in front of Socialist Party headquarters in Paris to watch the returns on a giant screen.

JEAN DELANOIS: I feel good because I'm for Segolene Royal. And I think her score is very good, and she has real chances to win.

BEARDSLEY: Nicolas Sarkozy was the day's biggest winner with nearly 31 percent of the vote - a record first round score. Royal had nearly 26 percent. Over at campaign headquarters of centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, there was palpable disappointment that their candidate didn't make it to the second round. But in third place, with nearly 19 percent of the vote, Bayrou is now in a position to play kingmaker. Analysts say Bayrou's voters will be key in deciding the presidential race. Although the Bayrou supporters watching Sarkozy speak last night didn't look like big fans of his.

NICOLAS SARKOZY: (Speaking French)


BEARDSLEY: In his speech, Sarkozy explained why centrist Bayrou didn't make it to the second round.

SARKOZY: (Through translator) By putting Madame Royal and me in the finals, voters have clearly shown they want to go head-to-head in this debate about two different ideas of France, two value systems, and two plans for the future of our society.

BEARDSLEY: Sarkozy's effective campaign machine and well-honed messages may be impressive, but his tough-guy reputation also scares many people. Christophe Barbier, editor of L'Express magazine, says that fear factor may now undermine Sarkozy's candidacy.

CHRISTOPHE BARBIER: (Through translator) Nicolas Sarkozy seems to have a comfortable advance after the first round, but nothing is in the bag, because Segolene Royal has a hidden gun, and that's the Anyone-but-Sarkozy vote.

BEARDSLEY: As she addressed her supporters, Royal already seemed to be playing to those fears.

SEGOLENE ROYAL: (Through translator) Tonight I call on all of you who think that we can reform France without brutality, those who believe in the triumph of human values over stock values, and want to put an end to the inequalities that have painfully deepened over the last years.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

: And again, another historic political figure, Boris Yeltsin of Russia has died at the age of 76. You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.