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France

Socialist Hollande wins friends on the left and right

Text by Ségolène ALLEMANDOU

Latest update : 2012-04-19

Just days before France goes to the polls for the eagerly anticipated first round of the 2012 presidential elections, Socialist party candidate Francois Hollande has been given some high profile endorsements. But will it help him become president?

Francois Hollande has been given some unexpected high profile backing this week in his bid to become the next president of France.

With just four days to go before the first round of voting, the 57 year-old Socialist Party candidate holds a slender lead in the polls over his main rival the incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy.

And Hollande’s camp has been further boosted by a number of right-wing politicians who have gone on record to profess their intention to vote for the MP for the Correze region.

Various former members of Sarkozy’s government have turned against their former leader and joined dozens of economists and sportsmen this week in declaring their support for Hollande.

Key backing from former Sarkozy allies

Firstly Martin Hirsh, who was tasked with dealing youth and poverty issues between 2007 and 2010, revealed his backing for Hollande followed by Fadela Amara the former secretary of state for urban policy.

Amara told Liberation newspaper she would be voting for Hollande and praised him for his “humour”. Amara said she was “deeply touched” by Hollande’s “humanism”.

Ex-ministers who served alongside Nicolas Sarkozy under former president Jacques Chirac also dug the knife in to the current president by announcing publicly their intention to vote for Hollande this week.

Corinne Lepage, minister for the environment from 1995 to 1997 said she “did not want to see Nicolas Sarkozy reelected” and on Wednesday former minister Azouz Begag issued a thinly veiled personal attack on Sarkozy.

Begag, who was in charge of promoting equal opportunities from 2005 to 2007 told Inter France radio station he would be voting for the “anti bling-bling” Hollande.

The ex-culture minister Jean-Jacques Ailagon was also pictured standing behind the socialist at his campaign rally in Paris on Sunday.

But the icing on the cake came when Jean-Luc Barre, who co-authored Jacques Chirac’s memoirs, revealed to BFMTV that the former president’s apparent joke last year that he would vote for Hollande was not in fact a gag.

“I saw him days ago and he told me he would be voting for Francois Hollande,” Barre said.

Economists on side

Sarkozy has played on voters’ fears of a worsening financial crisis warning them that their country could end being “the next Greece” if he was not re-elected.

Hollande said on Wednesday that he would not endorse the EU finance treaty, championed by Sarkozy, if it does not promote “measures for growth”.

Sarkozy would not therefore have been amused to find that 42 of the country’s top economists wrote an open letter endorsing the recovery plan of Hollande. Laurence Parisot head of the right-leaning employers association MEDEF also went on record saying she agreed with some of Hollande’s ideas.

Another influential group falling in behind Hollande are sportsmen with French daily Le Parisian revealing how 100 figures from across the world of sport, all be it many unknown outside France, were prepared to give their support to the man once derided as a “marshmallow”.

“We did not have to do any lobbying. It was the sportsmen who came to us,” said Pascal Bonnetain, from Hollande’s campaign team.

Little impact

The question is whether any of this high profile support will help Francois Hollande come out on top on Sunday and again in the run-off on May 6.

Eric Bonnet, director of studies at polling agency BVA thinks the deluge of support for Hollande will have minimum impact over voters in Sunday’s first round.

“It may help to reassure centrist voters who feel guilty about voting for the left. This might help them take the plunge,” he said.

“However the effect may be greater felt during the two rounds of voting and could act as a significant force against Nicolas Sarkozy,” Bonnet said. “The president will seek to attract centrist voters by trying to present Hollande as being on the far left. But if Hollande has the support of centrists Sarkozy’s efforts will be wasted.”

Even if the high profile support does not actually help Hollande into the Elysee Palace it all augurs well for his bid to replace Sarkozy, especially with the latest opinion polls making him the clear favourite to win the second vote on May 6.

But for political scientist Bonnet it is not yet game, set and match for the Socialist Party candidate.

“If Hollande appears to be the clear-favourite, things could yet change before Sunday as his supporters may be less motivated to actually turn out and vote for him,” Bonnet said.

For his part, Hollande is refusing to get carried away. He told 10,000 supporters at Tuesday night’s rally in the northern town of Lille to “control their euphoria” until the results are in.
 

Date created : 2012-04-18

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