Today's election in France and the choice of President may well have profound knock-on effects in Europe and other countries, so to keep up with the various stages see this handy schedule, printed in The Times:
"April 22 First-round vote. There are twelve candidates, seven on the Left, five on the Right. To win, a candidate must score more than 50 per cent of the vote. Otherwise the first two go to a run-off
May 6 Run-off between the two leaders from the first round. The presidency goes to the one who receives the most votes
After May 6 The new president appoints a prime minister and Cabinet to run the country pending parliamentary elections in June
May 17 President Chirac leaves office. The new president takes office in the Elysée Palace and the new prime minister is installed with a new, temporary, government
June 10 First round of general parliamentary elections. It is a straight majority system, not proportional, but candidates must achieve more than 50 per cent to win a seat
June 17 Second round of parliamentary elections to decide seats that were not won outright in the first round
June 25 (approximately) The president is likely to reshuffle the government in light of the outcome of the elections. If the new parliamentary majority is from the president’s opposition, it will chose a new prime minister, who will appoint a government in opposition to the president. No parliamentary election has yet produced such a “cohabitation” in the aftermath of a presidential election, although nothing rules it out."