Rising in the polls, Bayrou spells out presidential plans

2nd March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 2, 2007 (AFP) - French centrist Francois Bayrou -- steadily emerging as a Third Man alongside presidential frontrunners Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal -- spelled out his plans for a national unity government in an interview to appear on Saturday.

PARIS, March 2, 2007 (AFP) - French centrist Francois Bayrou -- steadily emerging as a Third Man alongside presidential frontrunners Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal -- spelled out his plans for a national unity government in an interview to appear on Saturday.

The 55-year-old leader of the centre-right Union for French Democracy (UDF) has jumped in the polls, threatening to upset the widely predicted two-horse race between the right-wing interior minister Sarkozy and his Socialist rival.

Polls credit the former education minister with 17 to 19 percent of votes in the first round, compared to 30-31 percent for Sarkozy and 25-26 for Royal. In a second round run-off, one recent poll suggested Bayrou would beat both candidates.

In an interview to appear in Le Monde newspaper on Saturday, he said he would found a new political party if elected president in the April-May vote, to field candidates in the legislative polls in June.

"I think it will be necessary," he said. "To carry this new hope and this new responsibility, the UDF in its current form will not be enough."

Bayrou has pledged to set up a government including figures from both left and right is he is elected -- an idea attacked as unrealistic by both Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement and Royal's Socialist Party.

In the interview he reiterated his plans for a "unity government" made up of "competent men and women, who agree on the major questions, and are representative of the main leanings in the country."

Three-quarters of French voters approve of Bayrou's plan to work with politicians of the left and right, according to an OpinionWay poll published in Le Figaro.

According to the IFOP polling institute, one third of Bayrou's current supporters come from the left -- where he has benefited from a slump in Royal's campaign -- and two thirds from the right.

The Socialist candidate was forced last week to reshuffle her campaign team, thrown into disarray by a series of gaffes on foreign policy and disagreements over the funding of her presidential programme.

Bayrou's first-round score hits 35 percent among senior managers and self-employed people such as doctors, laywers and business owners, with moderate left-wingers drawn by his offer of economic realism -- pro-business reforms and a pledge to cut French debt -- with a social edge.

Recently, a group of senior left-wing civil servants, the Spartacus group, came out in Bayrou's support, saying he alone would be capable of beating Sarkozy in the second round.

All but two of more than 30 polls conducted since January show Sarkozy defeating Royal by a margin of four to eight points. One, at the start of last week, predicted a draw, and one put her a single point behind.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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