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Campaigning For French Presidential Election Officially Kicks-Off

Campaigning for the upcoming French presidential election began officially on Monday, with advertisements supporting the contestants being broadcast on television and radio, and campaign posters appearing on local authority noticeboards across the country.

Each of the ten candidates in the presidential fray are allowed a total of 43 minutes of campaigning on television before 20 April, including 10 slots lasting 90 seconds and eight lasting three-and-a-half minutes.

All broadcasters are required to provide equal air time to each of the ten candidates who were officially registered on March 19. Under rules of the audio-visual authority (CSA), the candidates are banned from using their television time to seek donations and to belittle opponents. The campaigning will end by April 21.

The campaign posters are also covered by strict rules. Posters should be of equal size and are not allowed a white background. They are also banned from having any combination of the blue, white and red colors of the French flag as background, other than to reproduce an existing party emblem.

Incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking reelection as the candidate of the ruling center-right UMP party. Sarkozy has manged to nose ahead of his main rival and Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in recent opinion polls, which predicts the incumbent to win the first round scheduled for April 22.

Nonetheless, opinion polls suggest Hollande would defeat Sarkozy if the election extends into a second round. The run-off is scheduled for May 6 if none of the candidates in the first round manage to secure the minimum-required 50% of the votes polled for an outright victory.

The other candidates in the French presidential election fray are far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, Centrist Francois Bayrou, communist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, Green party candidate Eva Joly, and former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

While revealing his election manifesto last Thursday, Sarkozy pledged to balance the country's budget and slash debts if reelected to the top post. He also warned the French public that they should reelect him if they wanted to prevent France from sliding to an economic crisis, similar to those being faced by Greece and Spain.

Meanwhile, Hollande has been basing his campaign mostly on tax-and-spend programs, higher taxes for the rich and promises to cut the country's widening budget deficit. In contrast, Le Pen has called for cutting annual immigration by up to 90% and favored abandoning the euro.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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