RIMANEWS-French Socialist Francois Hollande has won most votes in the first round of the country's presidential election, early estimates say.
He got about 28% of votes, according to projections based on partial results, against about 26% for centre-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.
The two men will face each other in a second-round run-off on 6 May.
The election has been dominated by widespread anxiety over the French economy and the wider eurozone crisis.
The estimates - based on votes counted in polling stations that closed early at 18:00 (16:00 GMT) - were announced by French media when all voting ended at 20:00 (18:00 GMT).
It is the first time a French president running for re-election has failed to win the first round since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958.
Mr Sarkozy - who has been in power since 2007 - was facing a total of nine candidates in Sunday's first round.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen came third with about 20% of the vote.[ach/BBC]