Sarkozy, Royal test defeated centrist for support

24th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 24, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential rivals Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal sent out more feelers to defeated centrist Francois Bayrou Tuesday, though both camps ruled out electoral deals ahead of the decisive second round vote.

PARIS, April 24, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential rivals Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal sent out more feelers to defeated centrist Francois Bayrou Tuesday, though both camps ruled out electoral deals ahead of the decisive second round vote.

With Bayrou's 6.8 million voters from Sunday's multi-candidate round seen as the key to victory on May 6, the two finalists need urgently to expand their base into the political middle ground.

Speaking at a rally in the eastern city of Dijon late Monday, Sarkozy appealed to those "who voted for other candidates in the first round and to men and women of good will" to join his right-wing camp.

"They have their place (there) once they too share the values of national identity, of work, of merit, of public-spiritedness, of justice," he said.

However Sarkozy -- who leads Royal in the opinion polls -- also ruled out any talk of "bargaining" with Bayrou or his small Union for a French democracy (UDF) party to secure centrist votes.

"I will not seal any alliance at the cost of my convictions. I will not build a union of parties by sacrificing my sincerity," he said.

Meanwhile Royal, the Socialist who would be France's first woman president, offered Bayrou "an open debate on ideas -- without preconditions -- in order find common ground."

"It is up to Bayrou to say whether he wants this debate. It is my responsibility as a woman of the left to give a signal to all voters who want change," she said.

But Royal's campaign director Francois Rebsamen made clear that "public debate does not mean secret deals in the corridors or party manoeuvres."

Both candidates were awaiting Bayrou's press conference on Wednesday in which he was to explain his position ahead of the May 6 run-off, but most commentators said he was unlikely to make an endorsement for either side.

Campaigning on a promise to bridge the left-right divide, Bayrou came in third Sunday with a 18.57 percent of the vote -- and there is now feverish speculation about how his electorate will divide up in round two.

According to political analysts, he attracted many left-wing voters unconvinced that Royal has the stature to be president, as well as moderate right-wingers who believe Sarkozy moved too far to attract supporters of National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

One important factor was the future of the UDF's 29 members of the National Assembly, who have in the past been allied to Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

The deputies were under growing pressure to endorse Sarkozy and thus ensure they will run unopposed by a UMP candidate in legislative elections that are due in June.

France is voting for a successor to 74-year-old Jacques Chirac -- president since 1995 -- in an election that has become the focus of impassioned debate over the nation's future direction.

Pledging a "clean break" from the politics of the past consensus, Sarkozy, 52, has centred his campaign around right-wing themes such as the work ethic, national identity and economic liberalisation.

Royal promises to protect the country's generous "social model" and her 100-point "presidential pact" contains a large number of new welfare projects to fight poverty and joblessness.

The two candidates are expected to hold a television debate on May 2, which should be the high point of the second round campaign.

Five opinion polls taken since Sunday's vote showed that Sarkozy is clear favourite to be the next president, with a lead of between four and eight percentage points over Royal.

Sarkozy won 31.18 percent of Sunday's vote ahead of Royal on 25.97 percent. Combined with a near record turn-out of 83.77 percent, the result was hailed as a sign of the public's eagerness for a clear left-right presidential choice.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

0 Comments To This Article