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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-04-23

President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist opponent Francois Hollande came neck and neck in the first round of the country’s presidential election. How supporters of the other main candidates votes will determine the outcome on May 6.

The second round of the French presidential election between Socialist candidate Francois Hollande and incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy is by no means a foregone conclusion.

The two winning candidates came through neck and neck, with Hollande taking 28.6% and Sarkozy narrowly behind with 27.8%.

Key to the success of either candidate is the support they can raise from supporters of the also-rans who failed to get through - in particular the far-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen, far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon and centrist Francois Bayrou.

An Ipsos poll taken on Sunday predicts that the Socialist candidate is likely to come through with 54% against Sarkozy’s 45% in the May 6 second round.

Far-left support for Hollande

According to the Ipsos poll, Hollande can count on 86% of supporters of Melenchon, who took 11% in Sunday’s first round.

Despite his longstanding enmity with the Socialist candidate, Melenchon told supporters on Sunday that the priority was for his followers to turn out massively on May 6 to defeat Sarkozy, even if he could not bring himself to mention Hollande by name.

"I call on you to come out on May 6 and beat Sarkozy without asking for anything in exchange,” he said. “I urge you: don't drag your heels, mobilise as though it were me you were sending to victory in the presidential election.”

National Front sits on the fence

Sarkozy, who heads France’s centre-right ruling UMP party, is less likely to benefit from any endorsement from the Far Right’s Marine le Pen’s National Front, which broke all records on Sunday with more than 18% of the vote.

The party, whose unprecedented support means that it is in the strongest possible position to be kingmaker in May’s run-off vote, has yet to endorse either candidate.

National Front Vice-President Louis Aliot told France Info radio on Monday: “Neither of them has voiced support for any of the major ideas in our election programme, so it is unlikely [that the party will officially endorse either candidate].”

According to Sunday’s IPSOS poll, some 60% of Le Pen supporters will vote for Sarkozy on May 6, while 18% will go with Hollande.

The unknown middle ground

The biggest uncertainty is with the MoDem centrist party, whose leader Francois Bayrou got 9.1% of Sunday’s vote.

In 2007 Bayrou refused to endorse either Segolene Royal or Sarkozy ahead of the 2007 second-round runoff, and his supporters were evenly split between the two candidates.

Bayrou said on Sunday that he would speak with both candidates, “tell them what is essential to us and listen to what they have to say – then I will take responsibility.”

The Ipsos survey showed a broadly similar split among Bayrou’s supporters from 2007, with 33% expressing support for Hollande, 32% intending to vote for Sarkozy and the remainder abstaining.

‘Anti-Sarkozy referendum’

Hollande, who called for the “biggest possible turnout” against Sarkozy in the second round, is now likely to try to appeal to voters of all shades to deal a death blow to the incumbent’s ambitions.

“The ‘anti-Sarkozy referendum’ angle of the next two weeks’ campaigning will be even more pronounced,” said Lille University Professor Remy Lefebvre.

“Hollande will behave in a broadly presidential manner, appealing to a broad spectrum of voters with gravitas and look like the candidate who can bring everyone together,” he told AFP.

On Sunday Sarkozy challenged Hollande to three televised debates in the run-up to the May 6 vote, a call that was flatly rejected by the Socialist candidate who insisted on following the republican tradition of doing it just once.

Accused of “being scared” of facing the incumbent, Hollande replied that “just because [Sarkozy] got a bad result, it doesn’t mean we have to change the rules of the game.”

Date created : 2012-04-23


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