Paris: Voters in France`s overseas territories began casting ballots for Nicolas Sarkozy or Francois Hollande in a presidential election that could affect everything from Europe`s efforts to fight its debt crisis to how long French troops stay in Afghanistan.
The final polls show Sarkozy making up ground on his Socialist challenger before Sunday`s election in France, but still suggest a Hollande victory.
Campaigning and the release of poll data have been suspended until the results of the run-off election come today evening.
Sarkozy predicts a "surprise" and Hollande is urging voters to avoid complacency as the bitter campaign neared its climax, driven by fears about joblessness, immigration and France`s economic future.
Hollande spent the weekend in Tulle, the town in central France where he has his electoral base as legislator and one-time mayor. Greeting shoppers in a market, Hollande said he was "confident, but not sure" when asked about his chances of becoming France`s next president.
"We wait for Sunday, I speak only about Sunday. Monday is another day," Hollande said.
Sarkozy was spending the day at home with his family in Paris.
Under a quirk of French electoral rules, balloting got under way on Saturday in France`s embassies and overseas holdings, starting in tiny Saint Pierre and Miquelon islands south of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic Ocean.
The election`s outcome will impact Europe`s efforts to fight its debt crisis, how long French troops stay in Afghanistan and how France exercises its military and diplomatic muscle around the world.
Sarkozy, disliked by many voters for his handling of the economy, promised he could come out victorious today.
Speaking on Europe-1 radio on Friday, he said much will depend on whether French voters bother to cast ballots in an election that polls have always predicted Hollande would win. But he also sounded increasingly philosophical and prepared for possible defeat.
Asked on Friday what he would do if he loses, Sarkozy said simply, "there will be a handover of power."