Sarkozy gains on rival

2012-02-20 12:07

Paris - French President Nicolas Sarkozy was gaining on his Socialist rival after officially announcing his re-election bid last week but still faces a tough challenge, a poll indicated on Monday.

The OpinionWay poll for newspaper Le Figaro showed Sarkozy with 27% of intended votes in the first round, up 1.5 points from the previous poll and within striking distance of Socialist candidate Francois Hollande with 29%.

Hollande's support was stable for the first round, but he remained the clear favourite to win a second-round run-off, with 56% to Sarkozy's 44%.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN) saw her support fall by 1.5 points to 16.5% of intended votes while centrist Francois Bayrou's support was stable at 13%.

"The gap is narrowing between the two main candidates in the presidential election, who are widening the gap with the other candidates," Le Figaro wrote.

Centre-right Sarkozy announced his candidacy on Wednesday for the two-round vote, to be held on April 22 and May 6.

He has since held a series of campaign events including a rally in Marseille on Sunday in which he called for the French people to stand with him to defend the traditional values of a strong France.