French presidential candidates rally for support
Counting down less than ten days to the first round of the French presidential election, two front-runners President Nicolas Sarkozy and his socialist rival François Hollande staged competing open-air rallies in Paris on Sunday.
Sarkozy’s re-election after five years in office has never been certain. Latest opinion polls showed Sarkozy’s narrow lead over his challenger Hollande is shrinking for the 22nd April first round since the electoral campaign started on 9th April.
Sarkozy called for a mass rally of the “silent majority” to support him at the Place de la Concorde, where he had his triumphant victory rally in 2007. The venue of rally represented French nationalism and patriotism, which was part of Sarkozy’s election strategy to invoke French history and names such as Napoleon and Charles de Gaulle.
“You are France!” Sarkozy declared to his supporters, targeting right-wing traditionalists with attacks on multiculturalism, teaching unions, affirmative action and Europe’s open borders, while defending families and hard work.
Addressing left-wing voters in front of Château de Vincennes, Socialist contender François Hollande told the diverse crowd that it was time for a change after five years of injustice and austerity at the hands of Sarkozy and financial markets.
Economy remains a major issue throughout the campaign, especially as unemployment has hit 10% in France. Sarkozy intends to bring France’s deficit to zero by 2016, and Hollande by 2017, as Bloomberg reported.
Sarkozy pledged a budget surplus and to cut France’s growing debt. If re-elected, he would freeze contribution to the European Union, which would help save 600 million euros. He also promised a debate on allowing the European Central Bank to support growth, and vowed to defend France against global capital markets.
Despite the Toulouse shootings which occurred only weeks ago, experts told the Washington Times that the Toulouse effect was unlikely to make a big difference.
A French nation-wide poll produced by the CSA agency showed that François Hollande could win the subsequent 6th May election by as much as 57%, suggesting that Hollande has been regaining momentum for election. If Hollande wins the final run-off vote on 6th May, it would be first time the Left has won the French presidency since François Mitterrand in 1988.
Apart from Sarkozy and Hollande, other presidential candidates include National Front Party President Marine Le Pen and radical leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.