With the first round of the French presidential election less than 24 hours away, there has seemingly yet to be any great wave of public excitement over any of the candidates or their policies.
The French media, along with the general public, often unanimously agree that the "real election" comes during the second round, in which the top two runners fight it out for the key to the Elysee Palace.
Ten candidates will compete in Sunday's first round -- and if, as expected, none wins 50 percent of the votes cast, there will be a second, run-off round
In a country where all candidates are given equal coverage and where televised political advertisements are banned, the frontrunners have to share the media stage with their less popular candidates. Nevertheless, editorial analysis and judgement plays an important role in getting politicians' message across.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has recently been trailing in the polls to his rival, the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande.
Sarkozy has been blamed for the country's economic difficulties, and -- for someone who was elected in 2007 for his personality and policies -- he is now someone who appears to have lost his charm and popularity.
Hollande, on the other hand, has been called "the president in waiting". He is seen as an affable moderate, whose quiet manner and corporate tax-raising economic policy differ sharply from Sarkozy's glamour and free market ideals.
The campaign of centrist François Bayrou -- who in 2007 took nearly a fifth of the first round vote -- has become somewhat marginalised, over-shadowed by the more extreme right and left wing candidates. He does, however, remain influential in terms of where his votes will go in round two.
The far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen has been polling at 15 per cent with her policies against the "tsunami" of illegal immigration, and the "Islamisation" of France, but she hasn't managed to make as much of an impact as once predicted.
The far-left candidate Jean Luc Melenchon, who has attracted voters with radical ideas -- such as a "citizens' revolution" based on the ideals of the 1871 Paris Commune -- is also polling at 15 per cent, in close competition with Le Pen for third place.
In the final stretch before Sunday's vote, Sarkozy is under pressure, with most opinion polls showing him trailing behind Hollande, who is expected by many observers to beat the incumbent in the second round of polling on May 6.
In the 2007 election, Sarkozy was much more popular in the media, talked up as a potential "hope and change" for France, ushering the country into a new era.
But after five years as president, where he has presided over an economic lull, the media have become much more critical and sceptical of the man dubbed the "bling bling president".
Nevertheless, Sarkozy has always found an ally in the right-leaning daily newspaper Le Figaro, which is an exception to the rule, firmly supporting the incumbent -- calling a major campaign speech "rich, lyrical, and forward-looking" in an editorial comment.
Yet, even as the polls swing against him, Sarkozy told [Fr] Le Figaro that if Hollande were to win it would be "catastrophic" for the French economy
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