French presidential election: Voters' voices

French voters go to the polls on Sunday in the first round of voting for a new president.

Socialist Francois Hollande has a double-digit poll lead over centre-right President Nicolas Sarkozy for the 6 May run-off.

The field of candidates also includes radical leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Francois Bayrou.

Here, French voters give their views on the candidates and debate who they will vote for.

Thibaut Mantoux, business consultant, St Germain en Laye

I will vote for Nicolas Sarkozy. I will do so with not much enthusiasm, but I did vote for him in the last election and he is the only choice this time.

Jean Luc Melenchon is the most convincing personality, but unfortunately I cannot agree with his ideas.

We are, therefore, left with a choice between Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande.

Hollande has no experience of government and was not effective as Socialist Party leader. He tried to achieve a balance between the two opposing currents in the party, but did not succeed.

He was chosen by the Socialists as their candidate this time, because there was no one else.

Sarkozy has not achieved any miracles, but at least he has the experience.

He has carried out a few reforms, but not as many as he should have done, which is disappointing, but at least he has admitted as much.

He has addressed the issues of pensions and the 35-hour working week. It's not enough, but it's something.

We need a lot of change in France and Sarkozy has a better chance of achieving it than Hollande, who has no chance whatsoever, as his party is so divided that his hands will be tied behind his back.

The ideology of the two candidates is very much the same. The issue is, who can achieve things as president - and that is Sarkozy.

Most of the anti-Sarkozy movement are not unhappy with what he's done, but who he is. That's very childish to base it all on personality.

[Charles] De Gaulle didn't have a nice personality, but you have to look at what he achieved.

France is in depression. If re-elected, Sarkozy must give France hope. He can do that through his actions and by giving the economy a boost.

Jean-Francois Sene, retired academic, Courbevoie, near Paris

I will be voting for Francois Hollande in the presidential election.

Of course, former President Chirac's support could be an asset, but no one should over-estimate his support.

The problem is Mr Sarkozy's contempt for both French institutions and French history, which has led him to ignore the basic values of our Republic and its citizens.

His economic policy could have been much more efficient, had he managed to gain the support of the people, by putting into action what he said in some of his speeches - which he didn't.

There are words and there are actions, and there's a gap between the two with President Sarkozy.

I think Francois Hollande will not be that kind of president. He is closer to the people.

Mr Hollande will certainly not restore the French economy within the next five years, but he may give the people energy and faith in the future.

He will also need to restore institutions, such as justice and the welfare system, which have been destroyed by this government.

Five years will be a short time for him to get this done, but it may at least relieve some of the general scepticism in France, created by Mr Sarkozy.

Francoise Gleitz, Lawyer, Toulouse

I am still undecided as to who to vote for on Sunday and I am wondering if I will vote at all.

I usually vote for the right wing candidate, because of their traditional stance on family values, but the only thing I'm sure of this time is that I will not put the name of Nicolas Sarkozy in the ballot box.

I voted for him in both rounds in the last election, but I can't any more.

It's mainly due to his character and personality. It would sound silly if he had handled the economy and social issues better, but he has not.

He takes decisions alone and never listens to other arguments. On justice, he took decisions he wanted and showed he does not have the interests of the country at heart.

There are a lot of others like me across France. I have a friend in Paris who is normally politically active for the right wing, but this time she is very angry with Sarkozy.

I honestly don't know who else I could vote for.

I have not got a problem with Francois Hollande, but I think the problem with him is he is likely to lose votes to [Left Front candidate] Jean-Luc Melenchon in the first round and will be forced to make deal with him, which I would not like to see.

As for Melenchon, it's easy to say no to this and that, but that's all we hear from him.

And I could not vote for Marine Le Pen because her position on immigration is not acceptable to me.

So it is still up to one of the candidates to try and win my vote.

Interviews by Stephen Fottrell.

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