Royal enjoys boost in the polls against Sarkozy

17th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 17, 2007 (AFP) - Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal received a surprise boost against right-wing leader Nicolas Sarkozy as they emerged neck-and-neck in a survey Monday ahead of France's weekend vote.

PARIS, April 17, 2007 (AFP) - Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal received a surprise boost against right-wing leader Nicolas Sarkozy as they emerged neck-and-neck in a survey Monday ahead of France's weekend vote.

With at least a third of the electorate undecided before Sunday's first round, to be followed by a deciding run-off on May 6, the final stretch of rallies and debates will play a crucial role in influencing swing voters.

Royal, 53, and Sarkozy, 52, would each get 50 percent support if they make it through to the second round after finishing in the top two places in Sunday's first ballot, the poll said.

The survey -- conducted by CSA-Cisco for Le Parisien, Aujourd'hui en France and I Tele -- said Sarkozy was projected to get 27 percent of the vote in the first round, followed by Royal at 25 percent.

Centrist leader Francois Bayrou was in third place at 19 percent for the first round, ahead of far right-wing leader Jean-Marie Le Pen at 15.5 percent.

France is choosing a successor to 74-year-old President Jacques Chirac in an election widely seen as the most exciting and important in a quarter of a century.

Twelve candidates are competing for the top job, including three Trotskyites, a Communist, a Green and anti-capitalist campaigner Jose Bove, a hunters' rights campaigner and a Catholic nationalist.

Royal faces a tough challenge from the centrist candidate, the 55-year-old former education minister Bayrou.

Bayrou's appeal on the left has been boosted by surveys suggesting that he -- unlike Royal -- stands a good chance of beating Sarkozy, the former interior minister, if he makes it to the second-round run-off.

"For left-wing voters, the priority is to defeat Sarkozy," said Roland Cayrol, director of the CSA polling institute. "Their problem is finding the most effective vote to do so."

"The centre-left is the priority target in this final phase of the campaign because it can make the difference," said Cayrol, who believes that "everything is still possible" on Sunday.

Over the weekend Royal was forced to slap down calls from three senior figures in her own camp for an alliance between her Socialist Party and Bayrou's Union for French Democracy, saying she had "nothing to negotiate, no deal to strike" with his party.

Bayrou, who initially welcomed the suggestion of an alliance as a sign "things were moving," on Monday also ruled out any deal with Royal before the first round, while stepping up his attacks on Sarkozy.

Sarkozy's opponents accuse him of veering to the far-right to poach voters from National Front (FN) right-wing leader Le Pen, and say he is a divisive character with no chance of securing the unity needed to reform the country.

Sarkozy's governing UMP party hit back on Monday, charging that the "violence" of the attacks against him "conceal his opponents' difficulty in carrying ideas for the country."

"Nicolas Sarkozy upsets a system... he crosses boundaries, and that bothers the candidates of a system that they refuse to change," said UMP spokeswomen Valerie Pecresse.

Meanwhile Le Pen, who beat the Socialist candidate into the run-off against Chirac in 2002, promised a "big surprise" in Sunday's vote, predicting that this time he could knock Sarkozy out of the race.

Le Pen is currently fourth but experts says that some of his supporters may be disguising themselves as Sarkozy voters in the pre-election surveys.

Royal urged voters to choose a country where "human values are more important that stock market values."

She told some 9,000 supporters in a packed hall in the city of Nantes that she would bring change to France without the "brutality" embodied by Sarkozy.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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