Hollande, Sarkozy battle to win over Le Pen vote
How the 6.3 million people who opted for the National Front will vote in two weeks will be crucial, writes RUADHÁN Mac CORMAICin Paris
NICOLAS SARKOZY and François Hollande appealed to far-right voters for support yesterday as the campaign for the second round of the French presidential election got under way.
The two will take part in a run-off on May 6th after Mr Hollande of the Socialist Party beat the incumbent by 28.7 per cent to 27.1 per cent, but the high showing by far-right leader Marine Le Pen has set the tone for the contest.
How the 6.3 million people who opted for the National Front leader will vote in two weeks will have a big influence on the result.
In his first comments after Sunday’s result, Mr Sarkozy said he would take on board the concerns of far-right voters.
“These anxieties, this suffering – I know them, I understand them,” he said. “They are about respecting our borders, the determined fight against job relocation, controlling immigration, putting value on work, on security.”
Mr Sarkozy announced that he would hold a rally to defend “real work” on May 1st, a day when left-wing parties and trade unions organise large marches across France and the National Front holds it annual Joan of Arc demonstration.
The theme of hard work, captured by the slogan “earn more by working more”, was central to Mr Sarkozy’s successful 2007 campaign, when he succeeded in attracting large numbers of far-right supporters.
“National Front voters must be respected,” Mr Sarkozy told journalists at his campaign headquarters in Paris yesterday.
“They voiced their view. It was a vote of suffering, a crisis vote. Why insult them? I have heard Mr Hollande criticising them.”
The socialist frontrunner said he would listen to those who had voted for Ms Le Pen, whose score, he said, was boosted by anger towards the sitting president. “Nicolas Sarkozy is to blame for the far right’s highest level,” he claimed.
Polls show Mr Sarkozy could attract about 60 per cent of the far-right vote, with 18 per cent going to Mr Hollande and 22 per cent abstaining in the run-off.
Asked how her supporters should vote in the second round, Ms Le Pen said she would give her opinion on May 1st – a week before the run-off – but it is considered unlikely that she will endorse either candidate.
“The battle of France has just begun,” Ms Le Pen told jubilant supporters.
“Nothing will be as it was before . . . The people of France have invited themselves to the table of the elite.”
Ms Le Pen’s focus is now on securing a strong showing in parliamentary elections in June.
“Faced with an outgoing president who will leave a much weakened party, we are the only true opposition to the neo-liberal left,” she said.
The Sarkozy camp argued that their man’s chances had been improved by the far-right’s success, but opinion polls suggest he has considerable ground to make up. An Ifop survey last night showed that Mr Hollande would win by 54 per cent to 46 per cent.
As well as a substantial share of Ms Le Pen’s vote, Mr Sarkozy will need to attract supporters of the centrist François Bayrou, who finished with 9.1 per cent on Sunday.
A close ally of Mr Bayrou, former minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the candidate would “probably not” reveal his preference, despite about 40 elected representatives of his party urging supporters to vote for Mr Hollande.
Senior Socialist Party figures believe they have the advantage going into the final two weeks of the campaign. On a visit to Quimper, Brittany, Mr Hollande compared his performance to that of socialist former president François Mitterrand in 1981. “We are going to win the presidential election,” he said, adding that he would actively appeal to far-right voters to join his cause.
“Nicolas Sarkozy is not only behind, he is isolated because no candidate is calling on people to vote for him after the first round,” said socialist Arnaud Montebourg.
Mr Hollande has received endorsements from left-wing radical Jean-Luc Mélenchon (11.1 per cent) and Green candidate Eva Joly (2.3 per cent), and polls show their voters will switch overwhelmingly to the socialist.
Mr Sarkozy has pressed Mr Hollande to agree to three television debates between now and May 6th, but the socialists say they will agree only to one.
“The French have the right to know,” Mr Sarkozy said. “Mr Hollande must not flee debate.”
EXPATRIATE CHOICES HOW THE FRENCH IN IRELAND VOTED
FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE was the most popular candidate among French citizens living in Ireland, official figures show.
Some 31.7 per cent of French expatriates who voted in Dublin and Cork on Sunday gave the Socialist Party candidate their support, with the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, in second place on 26.4 per cent.
The two frontrunners’ rankings in Ireland reflected the overall result, but Mr Hollande’s Irish support was higher than his overall vote of 28.6 per cent, while Mr Sarkozy’s was lower than his national total of 27.2 per cent.
Irish-resident voters also favoured centrist François Bayrou, putting him in third place with 15.1 per cent.
Nationally Mr Bayrou managed just 9.1 per cent.
French voters here put the left- wing radical Jean-Luc Mélenchon in fourth place, on 10.8 per cent, with the Green, Eva Joly, coming fifth with 4.3 per cent, according to figures supplied by the French embassy.
Ireland is not a heartland of the French far-right, the figures suggest, with National Front leader Marine Le Pen winning just 4.31 per cent – a long way from the 18 per cent she received nationally.
Of 5,309 registered voters in Ireland, 1,963 cast their votes on Sunday.
Eighteen voters chose the anti- capitalist candidate Philippe Poutou, while eight chose Jacques Cheminade, whose most talked- about proposal was to colonise Mars.
In the first round of the 2007 election, French voters in Ireland gave most votes to the socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal. Mr Bayrou was in second place and Mr Sarkozy finished third.