French presidential votes on April 22 and May 6, 2012
France will hold the first round of next year's presidential election on April 22 and the second round run-off on May 6, the spokesman for President Nicolas Sarkozy's government said Wednesday.
Parliamentary elections for the lower house National Assembly will follow on June 10 and 17, spokesman and Budget Minister Francois Baroin told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting.
Sarkozy is expected to stand for re-election for a second five-year term on a centre-right ticket, and will likely face challenges from a Socialist Party candidate on the left and the National Front on the far right.
While the president and his supporters have remained confident in public, Sarkozy's poll ratings are languishing at historic lows amid a slow economic recovery and stiff opposition to many of his attempts at economic reform.
As the unofficial race begins to gather pace, polls show he could be beaten by any of the likely main candidates for the Socialist Party's nomination, and in particular by IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
As things stand, Sarkozy could even be knocked out in the first round of voting if Marine Le Pen, who inherited the National Front from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen earlier this year, pips him into second place.
His task has been further complicated by threats from centre-right and centrist figures who have been alienated by him in government to stand as protest candidates and thus further undermine his support base.
Before next year's crunch poll, an electoral college of national lawmakers and regional and local councillors will hold a vote on September 25 to renew half the seats in the Senate, parliament's upper house.
The latest poll by the Ifop institute put Sarkozy's personal approval rating at 32 percent, up two points on the previous month but still lower than any previous incumbent president's at this stage in the race for re-election.
© 2011 AFP