France votes in the first round of legislative elections on Sunday, with polls indicating that President Nicolas Sarkozy will strengthen his hold on power.
The vote is crucial to Sarkozy's bold reform program, which includes sweeping changes to labor laws, the justice and education systems and financial measures to invigorate the economy.
A latest survey showed that Sarkozy's conservative UMP party will win between 366 and 419 seats, a larger majority than its current 359 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, against between 120 and 173 for the Socialists, who now hold 149 seats.
A total of 44.5 million registered voters will cast their ballots at 85,000 polling stations. Polls in mainland France open at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) and must close by 8 p.m. (1800 GMT). Overseas territories vote earlier.
A total of 7,639 candidates from 14 parties are running for the 577 seats in the National Assembly. Preliminary official results are expected soon after polls close and final results are expected by early Monday.
Sunday's elections is the first round. Under France's complex electoral rules only candidates who win more than 50 percent of votes in the first round win the seat outright. If there is no clear winner, all candidates who win more than 12.5 percent in the first round qualify for the second and final round on June 17.
Last Mod: 10 Haziran 2007, 15:09