Sarkozy may have benefited by a series of Islamist killings
FRENCH President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared on Thursday (March 29) to have put an end to Socialist Francois Hollande’s hitherto consistent lead in first round voting intentions for the presidential race.
The right-winger was also narrowing the Socialist’s lead in the run-off second round vote on May 6, according to a raft of opinion polls published this week.
The latest, carried out this week by CSA and released late Wednesday (March 28), said 30 per cent of voters would pick Sarkozy and 26 per cent would go for Hollande. A week ago the poll put Sarkozy at the same level and Hollande at 28 per cent.
Four other French polling institutes - TNS-Sofres, Ifop, OpinionWay and Harris Interactive - this week all put Sarkozy ahead in the first round, reversing the pole position that Hollande had claimed for months.
They all still predicted Hollande would win the May 6 second round but showed that Sarkozy was narrowing the Socialist’s lead.
The CSA survey said that if the vote were held next Sunday (April 1), Hollande would win with 53 per cent of the vote against Sarkozy’s 47 per cent.
Some commentators put Hollande’s narrowing lead down to the success of Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, whose popularity has stabilised at around 13 percent in the first round.
“The Melenchon pressure” said Thursday (March 29)’s front-page headline of left-wing daily Liberation, while the pro-Sarkozy Le Figaro headlined “Melenchon toughens his tone against Hollande.”
Melenchon’s virulent attacks on the rich, the political elite and European austerity measures have struck a chord with many left-wing voters as France struggles with economic crisis and rising unemployment.
The 60-year-old former Socialist minister split with the party in 2008 to found the Left Party and was elected to the European Parliament in 2009.
Melenchon says he will call on his supporters to vote against Sarkozy in the second round but has repeatedly insisted he will not accept a ministerial position if Hollande wins.
Sarkozy may have benefited from a series of Islamist killings that shocked France and allowed the right-winger to resume his presidential role as he attended victims’ memorials and announced a crackdown on fundamentalism.
A poll by Harris Interactive on Wednesday (March 28) said 65 per cent of French approved of Sarkozy’s attitude during the crisis that followed Al-Qaeda militant Mohamed Merah’s murder of seven people.
Fifty-nine per cent had the same opinion of Hollande.
But only 37 per cent approved of the attitude of far right leader Marine Le Pen, who was at pains to link Islamic extremism with Muslim immigration during and after the crisis.
Mindful that he has not kept many promises regarding the French economy during his mandate, Sarkozy told the Paris-Match weekly that he would be “different” and “not repeat errors one might have made” if re-elected.
Sarkozy, who was seen as hyperactive and too connected to the wealthy and showbusiness elite during his mandate, admitted he had had the attitude of a busy minister, whereas “one should also have distance and solemnity”.
While the Merah killings briefly thrust issues of security and immigration to the forefront of the campaign, the economy remains the main concern of French citizens - especially employment and purchasing power.
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