PARIS, April 20 (Xinhua) -- France's main polling institutes have agreed not to conduct exit polls or release early results of the first round of presidential election on Sunday before all polling stations close, the authorities said on Friday.
The authorities said the country's nine main polling institutes had agreed to act in accordance with a 1977 law that bans any form of publication concerning the election results through the press before the official announcement, so as to prevent late voters being swayed in their decision.
"I want to contradict the idea that the law is obsolete just because it was adopted in a prehistoric period before Facebook, Twitter or even the Internet, " Polling Commission President Marie-Eve Aubin told reporters.
On Sunday, 44.3 million registered French voters are expected to cast their ballots for the first round of the presidential election in polling stations which usually close at 6 p.m. local time (1600 GMT) while in big cities at 8 p.m. local time (1800 GMT).
On Wednesday, Commission Nationale de Controle de la Campagne (CNCCEP), an institution that regulates pollsters, announced that France would adopt firm measures on early leaks of poll results online, imposing fine up to 75,000 euros (98,250 U.S. dollars) on those who publish the exit poll or election result ahead of the official announcement.
"No poll, no partial result, no estimate of the results can be broadcasted on Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22 before 8 p.m. local time," said a press release of the CNCCEP.
These measures were to prevent leaks of voting trend and "to protect the last voter to vote," as a commission member put it.
However, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday that rules barring election results to be released ahead of the official announcement were outdated, while Socialist candidate Francois Hollande supported tough punishment on violators.
A latest IFOP survey showed that Sarkozy is neck and neck with Hollande in opinion polls just one day before voting begins, with each of the top two candidates enjoying 27 percent of votes, while Marine Le Pen of the National Front trails behind with 16 percent of votes.