Rival rallies as French vote looms

2012-04-13 18:00
Paris - France's Socialist presidential challenger Francois Hollande rode a wave of confidence towards the last weekend before polling day, as he and Nicolas Sarkozy prepared rival Paris rallies on Friday.

Hollande has seen his lead over the right-wing incumbent narrow slightly in recent weeks, but Sarkozy's late surge has not altered pollsters' predictions, and the left remains on course for victory over the two-round vote.

Sarkozy is pinning his hopes on what he calls a "silent majority" waiting in the wings, and hopes to see tens of thousands of voters flock to his banner at a massive rally on Sunday in Paris's Place de la Concorde.

Not to be outdone, Hollande has summoned his supporters to a parallel event in a park in Vincennes, an inner Paris suburb, to push his main campaign theme: "The time for change is now."

Hollande defended his low-key style in a seven-page interview in left-wing daily Liberation, insisting that his plan was to convince rather than seduce voters. "I have a duty to win," he said.

"I'm not asking you to marry me," he told the paper's morning editorial conference, adopting a presidential tone. "I'm not campaigning simply to generate joy. I have a higher responsibility."

Sarkozy accepts possibility

Sarkozy has implicitly accepted the possibility of a Hollande victory by warning this could trigger panic on the financial markets and a speculative attack on the euro, bringing France "to its knees".

Hollande has vowed to privilege growth over the austerity measures that Sarkozy has imposed in a bid to control France's budget deficit, a move that the right-winger warns would plunge France into the same debt crisis as Spain.

The challenger has played down the threat and responded that he is ready to take on the markets and to "dominate" them, accusing Sarkozy of being the plaything of high finance and failing to protect voters.

"It's been three years that the markets have been imposing their laws on us. That's my charge against the outgoing candidate, to have been incapable, along with other European leaders, to halt speculative capital flows," he said.

Opinion polls

The opinion polls support Hollande's confidence.

The latest from the CSA institute, published on Friday, predicts that Hollande will beat Sarkozy by 27% to 26% in the first round on April 22, and by 57% to 43% in the May 6 run-off.

Other polls have shown a more narrow spread, but Hollande had enjoyed a consistent second-round lead in voting intentions since he won the Socialist primary in October, and remains the clear favourite.

Part of this has been the unexpected rise of the firebrand Communist-backed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who stole some of the more-cautious Hollande's limelight but generated some much-needed energy on the left.

Melenchon's advance - CSA has him in third place on 17% - has kept predictions for Hollande's first-round score low, but most of his supporters are expected to switch to the centre-leftist before May 6.

Could turn fierce

Nevertheless, the two-week campaign window between the two rounds could turn fierce, when the frontrunners go head-to-head and broadcasters will no longer be forced by law to accord equal time to outsider candidates.

"The equal exposure rules, the limited impact of the launch of his manifesto and the Melenchon effect - which has attracted attention away from the right's candidate - all hurt Sarkozy's campaign," said CSA's Jerome Sainte-Marie.

For his part, Melenchon has two more major rallies planned, one on Saturday on the beach in the southern port city of Marseille, and then a triumphal return to Paris on Thursday for a last celebration before Sunday's vote.

Read more on:    francois hollande  |  nicolas sarkozy  |  france

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.