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    The first round of voting in the French elections....and early returns supported the opinion polls,?

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    The first round of voting in the French elections....and early returns supported the opinion polls, with the opposition Socialists and Communists heading for a lead over the government. But the projected lead of five percent was at least two points lower than predicted.

    SYNOPSIS: Reports said the poll was high, with around 80 percent of France's 32 million voters turning out. Most will have to vote again in the second round next Sunday (19 March). President Valery Giscard d'Estaing and his wife arrive to cast their votes. At stake are 491 seats in the National Assembly. By tradition, the president does not campaign heavily in an Assembly election. When stumping the country, he had warned that a Leftist victory would wreck the French economy and aggravate national divisions.

    Communist leader Georges Marchais. One of the liveliest and most tireless of campaigners, he had promised to hit hard at the rich if his party shared power in the next government. His chances of achieving this, and launching a social revolution in France, have been hampered by persistent differences over policy with the Socialists. He accused them of planning massive compensation for nationalising giant companies.

    Prime Minister Raymond Barre had completed his first taste of electioneering, during which, reports said, he'd had trouble making contact with the people. He blamed the soft world economy for France's financial worries.

    Socialist leader, Monsieur Francois Mitterrand, has been seen as the man to benefit most from the current for change that the polls have suggested is running strongly in France after 20 years of Gaullist and neo-Gaullist rule. Political observers claim his strategy is to reduce the Communist to a marginal role if the left triumphs in this election. He angered the Communists by denying a report that they would get six or seven ministers in a Leftist government. But they have to win first. And pundits have predicted a fear of the unknown could deny final victory to the Left.

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    Film ID:
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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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    Available on request
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