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French far right holds balance after Francois Hollande edges Nicolas Sarkozy

Laurent Cipriani / AP

A supporter of Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande celebrates after the results of the first round of the French elections were announced at the party's headquarters in Paris, France, on April 22, 2012.

Reuters reports — Far-rightist Marine Le Pen threw France's presidential race wide open on Sunday by scoring nearly 20 percent in the first round -- votes that might determine the runoff between Socialist favorite Francois Hollande and conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Hollande got 27.5 percent, compared to Sarkozy's 26.6 percent, and the two will meet in a head-to-head decider on May 6.

A 4-month presidential race? Welcome to France

But Le Pen's record score of 20 percent was the sensation of the night, beating her father's 2002 result and outpolling hard leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, in fourth place with 10 percent. Centrist Francois Bayrou finished fifth with nine percent. Continue reading.

Jean-Pierre Muller / AFP - Getty Images

Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande adjusts his glasses on stage after the announcement of the estimated results of the first round put him in first place.

Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP - Getty Images

France's President and Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) candidate Nicolas Sarkozy is pictured following the announcement of the estimated results, which put him in second place.

Philippe Desmazes / AFP - Getty Images

Far right Front National (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen celebrates after a strong performance gave her the highest ever score for her anti-immigrant party. She finished third.

Jeff Pachoud / AFP - Getty Images

Ballots are displayed on a table in a polling station in Lyon during first round voting.

In this year's U.S. presidential campaign, more than $100 million has already been spent on TV ads. As Rock Center Special Correspondent Ted Koppel reports, the system is very different in France, where the candidates disappear from TV in the run-up to voting.