French voters have turned out in their droves in the country's presidential election between Nicolas Sarkozy and his challenger Francois Hollande.
By noon, just over 30% of France's 46 million eligible voters had cast their ballot. The polls are set to close at 8pm.
Hollande is seen as the favourite to become the first Socialist President of France in nearly two decades, despite recent polls showing that Sarkozy had narrowed his lead.
Mr Hollande voted in his electoral fief of Tulle, in central France. Live television coverage showed the 57-year-old politician shaking hands and chatting with voters on his way into the polling station.
“It’s going to be a long day,” Mr Hollande told reporters gathered to watch him vote. “It’s up to the French people to decide if it’s going to be a good day,” he said.
Mr Sarkozy, accompanied by first lady and former supermodel Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, voted at midday in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. Scores of television cameras surrounded the couple, and members of the public could be heard chanting “Sarkozy! President!” But Mr Sarkozy, 57, chose not to speak on live TV.
At midday voter turnout was 30.66%, down from 34.11% at the same time in the second round of the 2007 presidential election, according to figures released by the interior ministry.