PARIS, April 21 (Xinhua) -- The first round of the 2012 French presidential election will take place on Sunday, with a second round run-off being held on May 6.
The following is a brief introduction of French presidential election.
Since a referendum initiated by General de Gaulle in 1962, four years after the establishment of the current Fifth Republic of France, the president of France has been elected by direct universal suffrage, instead of elected by Parliament previously.
The referendum in 2000 amended the presidential term from seven years to five years, without a term limit. It was the constitutional law in July, 2008 that regulated the French president cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.
In order to be qualified in the first ballot of French presidential election, a candidate must receive signed nominations from over 500 elected officials from a total of more than 47,000, who may nominate only one candidate.
If no candidate gains a majority of votes in the first round, the two highest-scoring candidates arrive at a run-off which is scheduled a fortnight later.
According to the French constitution, the president, who also assume the office of the Commander-in-Chief (CINC) of the armies, may name the prime minister, dissolve the French National Assembly, may refer treaties or certain types of laws to popular referendum and may order the use of nuclear weapons if necessary.
The former presidents of French Fifth Republic include General de Gaulle, elected in 1958 and 1965, Georges Pompidou, in 1969, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, in 1974, Francois Mitterrand in 1981 and 1988, and Jacques Chirac, in 1995 and 2002.
The incumbent French president Nicolas Sarkozy, representing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), won the election in 2007 with a handsome lead of 53 percent of votes in the decisive round. He is now seeking a second and final term.
Latest IFOP poll released on Friday showed that Sarkozy is neck-and-neck with his socialist arch rival Francois Hollande, both enjoying 27 percent of votes, while Marine Le Pen of the National Front trails behind with 16 percent of votes.