French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to announce his bid for re-election on Wednesday, setting the stage for what he hopes will be a dramatic comeback against his poll-leading Socialist rival.

"/> French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to announce his bid for re-election on Wednesday, setting the stage for what he hopes will be a dramatic comeback against his poll-leading Socialist rival.

" />
SHARE
COPY LINK

NICOLAS SARKOZY

Sarkozy to confirm re-election bid on TV

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to announce his bid for re-election on Wednesday, setting the stage for what he hopes will be a dramatic comeback against his poll-leading Socialist rival.

Sarkozy to confirm re-election bid on TV
World Economic Forum

With only 10 weeks before the first round of France’s presidential vote on April 22nd, right-wing Sarkozy is lagging in the polls, struggling with image problems and burdened with a moribund economy.

But his team is confident that once officially in the race Sarkozy, a seasoned and charismatic campaigner, will be able to quickly make up ground on frontrunner François Hollande.

“The game is far from over. The polls, the comments, all this will be wiped away in the three weeks before the election,” Prime Minister François Fillon, a long-time Sarkozy ally, told Le Monde on Monday.

“He has maintained his close relationship with the French people. During the campaign he will find the words and ways to reach out to them.”

French media was reporting widely that Sarkozy will make his announcement on the main evening news programme on the TF1 TV channel on Wednesday evening.

Sarkozy has been laying the groundwork for his run in the last several weeks — portraying himself as a defender of traditional values and a steady hand in dealing with the European economic crisis.

In an interview with Le Figaro last week, he made clear he will be pushing a conservative social agenda, vowing to oppose gay marriage and euthanasia and to restrict immigration.

In recent weeks he has also moved to shore up his reformist economic credentials, increasing the sales tax to reduce payroll charges and introducing a 0.1 percent tax on financial transactions.

But his efforts so far have not translated into a boost in opinion polls.

The most recent poll by firm OpinionWay found Hollande leading with 29.5 percent support and Sarkozy trailing with 25.5 percent in the first round.

Under this forecast, Hollande would also extend his lead in the May 6th second round run-off, beating Sarkozy by a score of 56 to 44 percent. Hollande’s spokesman, Benoit Hamon, said Monday the Socialist campaign was feeling “calm” ahead of the expected announcement and denounced Sarkozy as having a “narrow and stunted vision” of France’s future.

Others in the campaign however were warning of a tough battle.

“It will be violent, it will be brutal,” Hollande’s campaign director, Pierre Moscovici, said on Sunday, warning that Sarkozy “feels like he has his back to the wall and he will not back away from anything.”

As well as from the left, Sarkozy is facing a challenge from far-right candidate Marine Le Pen of the National Front, who is polling between 16 and 20 percent and hopes to knock him out in the first round.

Le Figaro said that a small campaign team was already in place and that shortly after his announcement Sarkozy would inaugurate his headquarters in a humble Paris office building.

A source close to Sarkozy told the newspaper the team is counting on a quick bounce in the polls. “If he has not gained three points in the next two weeks, things will get difficult,” the source admitted.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

NICOLAS SARKOZY

Leaders Sarkozy and Juppé stumble in race for Elysée

Right-wing candidates for the French presidential election face off in the first round of a US-style primary on Sunday with former president Nicolas Sarkozy and ex-prime minister Alain Juppe fighting to avoid being knocked out by an outsider.

Leaders Sarkozy and Juppé stumble in race for Elysée
Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo: AFP

In a contest overshadowed by the election of Donald Trump in the United States, support for the early favourite Juppe has slipped and Francois Fillon, who served as prime minister under Sarkozy, has risen fast.

The right-wing nominating contest is crucial because with the French left divided, the winner is expected to go on to take the presidency in May, beating far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the runoff.

Juppe, 71, entered the two-month-long contest with polls showing him to be France's most popular politician, but his approach of playing the moderate against the fiery Sarkozy and the conservative Fillon appears to be backfiring.

Most polls now show Juppe and Sarkozy are neck-and-neck at around 30 percent, with Fillon close behind after making striking progress in recent weeks.

The two winners on Sunday will go through to the second round run-off a week later.

Two becomes three

“We were expecting a duel but in the end a three-way contest has emerged,” political scientist Jerome Jaffre said in Le Figaro newspaper on Thursday.

Many have noted that 62-year-old Fillon's rise had coincided with the publication of his latest book entitled “Beating Islamic totalitarianism”.

An often confused final TV debate of the seven candidates on Thursday offered few clues about the possible outcome, although viewers polled afterwards said Fillon had performed the strongest.

Sparks flew when Sarkozy was asked about fresh claims that he received millions in funding from the late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi towards his 2007 campaign.

Sarkozy called the question “disgraceful” and refused to answer.

Turning to the Trump effect, the former president said a more isolationist America created “a fantastic opportunity for France and Europe to re-establish a leadership role” on issues including border security and the reform of the UN Security Council.

“The next five years will mark the return of France and Europe to the international scene. America won't be there to put us in the shade,” he said.

Juppe meanwhile said the Trump-era heralded a triple “shock” — in the areas of trade, defence and the environment.

A return to protectionism would be “a tremendous regression”, Juppe said, while warning Europe against being “naive” in its dealings with the United States.

The three leading candidates have similar programmes, underpinned by pledges to reinforce domestic security in a country still under a state of emergency following a series of jihadist attacks.

They also share a desire to reinforce European borders and reduce immigration, while tax cuts also loom large.

The choice will come down to style.

Sarkozy has emphasised his tough-guy credentials, saying it makes him a better choice to handle Trump than the mild-mannered Juppe.

Fillon, who is popular in the business world, has promised “radical” economic measures but is the most conservative of the three on social issues.

Another unknown factor in Sunday's first round is the number of left-wing voters prepared to pay two euros and sign a declaration that they subscribe to “the values of the centre and the right” to vote in the right-wing primary.

Those who do are expected to vote against 61-year-old Sarkozy, who remains a highly divisive figure in France four years after he left office.

When the right-wing candidate is chosen on November 27, it is expected to trigger an announcement from deeply unpopular Socialist President Francois Hollande on whether he intends to bid for re-election.

On Wednesday, Hollande's former economy minister Emmanuel Macron announced he would stand as an independent.

by AFP's Guy Jackson

SHOW COMMENTS