PARIS (AP) -- Defeated French presidential hopefuls on both left and right on Monday rushed to endorse incumbent Jacques Chirac for the second-round vote -- a concerted effort to keep power out of the hands of extreme right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Chirac, a conservative, and the anti-immigrant Le Pen will face each other in the runoff vote May 5. Le Pen's second-place finish in Sunday's first round dealt a crushing blow to Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who came in third.
The voting shook the political establishment and sent protesters into the streets. Choking back emotion, Jospin announced his retirement from politics, calling Le Pen's success a "thunderbolt" and a "very disturbing sign for France and for our democracy."
Le Pen, 73, leader of the anti-immigration National Front, called his score a step in "the French renaissance," to be completed with a May 5 victory.
But on Monday, a few defeated candidates asked backers to transfer their support to Chirac -- a request that, for some, would once have been unimaginable.
"We're facing a choice that could be considered impossible," Green Party candidate Noel Mamere told supporters. "To block the extreme right, we must resolve to vote Chirac in the second round."
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