Update: according to Belgian Le Soir, first exit polls show that Hollande is not surprisingly ahead, with 27% of the vote, 25.5% for Sarkozy, 16% for Marine Le Pen, and 13% for Jean-Luc Melenchon. More or less just as expected, and setting the stage for the runoff round which will be Hollande's to lose. French speakers demanding a minute by minute liveblog, can find a great one over at Le Figaro, and an English-one can be found at France24.com
As of 8 am CET, polls are open in the first round of the French presidential elections where voters are expected to trim the playing field of ten to just two candidates, incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy and his socialist challenger Francois Hollande, who will then face off in a May 6 runoff, where as of now Hollande is expected to have a comfortable lead and take over the presidency as the disgruntled French take their revenge for an economy that is contracting, an unemployment rate that keeps rising (see enclosed) despite promises to the contrary, and as their to "express a distaste for a president who has come to be seen as flashy following his highly publicized marriage to supermodel Carla Bruni early in his term, occasional rude outbursts in public and his chumminess with rich executives.....France is struggling with feeble economic growth, a gaping trade deficit, 10 percent unemployment and strained public finances that prompted ratings agency Standard & Poor's to cut the country's triple-A credit rating in January." In a major shift for the country, Hollande would become France's first left-wing president since Francois Mitterand, who beat incumbent Valery Giscard-d'Estaing in 1981. As Reuters reports, "Hollande, 57, promises less drastic spending cuts than Sarkozy and wants higher taxes on the wealthy to fund state-aided job creation, in particular a 75 percent upper tax rate on income above 1 million euros ($1.32 million)." The Buffett Rule may have failed in the US but La Loi de Buffett is alive and well in soon to be uber-socialist France. Yet it is not so much Hollande's domestic policies, as his international ones, especially vis-a-vis the European Fiscal Treaty, Germany, and most importantly the ECB, that roiled markets last week, causing French CDS to spike to the widest since January. In other news, goodbye Merkozy, hello Horkel as the power center shifts yet again to a new source of uncertainty and potential contagion.