Turnout solid in French presidential election

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PARIS (AP) -- The Interior Ministry says more than one in four French voters in the first round of France's presidential election cast ballots before noon -- a solid turnout compared to recent years.

After a provisional noontime count, the ministry said over 28 percent of France's 44-million-plus registered voters had cast ballots.

It was less than the 31 percent at the same time in the 2007 first-round vote, but more than in the four previous races.

Sunday's balloting will winnow down a list of 10 candidates to two finalists for a May 6 runoff.

Polls have showed that President Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, a Socialist, are likely to make the cut.

A high abstention rate could alter the political terrain by giving more influence to more ideological -- and less centrist -- voters.