Latest polls favour Hollande as France elects its president
Incumbent French president Nicolas Sarkozy looks set to face defeat as French voters go to the polls for a second round of voting.
A poll for French magazine Paris-Match puts Socialist Party candidate François Hollande at 52% against Sarkozy’s 48% – a drop in support for Hollande from a week ago, where polls suggested he was 10 percentage points ahead of Sarkozy.
Sarkozy has remained defiant, and claimed that the polls were mistaken. He suggested that a higher-than-predicted turnout would lead to a rise in support for him. Even Sarkozy’s own aides have admitted that a victory for him would be surprising, with one of his ‘inner circle’ saying: “He’s like a runner – he won’t consider it’s over until the very end, but I’d say he has one chance in six.”
Although Hollande has steadily held the lead over Sarkozy for the last few weeks, he said that while he was confident, the result couldn’t be predicted. “If I was absolutely sure of the result, I wouldn’t have campaigned until the very end,” he said. His victory would make him the first socialist president since François Mitterrand was re-elected in 1988.
If Sarkozy is indeed defeated, he would become the 11th European leader to lose his position since the economic crisis. He has lost public support as some voters believe him to be the ‘President of the rich’, and out of touch with ‘regular’ voters. His policies to clamp down on immigration, however, remain popular with the electorate.
Hollande has played on this throughout the elections, painting himself as a ‘normal’ voter himself. He has proposed higher taxes for the rich, and has said that, if elected, he intends to work on the education system and to cap France’s deficit.
Further blows for Sarkozy came when far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen – who came third in the elections with 17.9% – and fourth-place centrist candidate Francois Bayrou – who received 9.1% – refused to back Sarkozy.
Le Pen urged her voters to “vote blank,” although polls suggest that up to 55% of her 6 million supporters will vote for Sarkozy. Bayrou said that he himself would be voting for Hollande.