Star power gives boost to French election rivals

4th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 4, 2007 (AFP) - Rappers, rockers, actors and sports icons -- dozens of French showbiz heavyweights have thrown their star power behind right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist rival Segolene Royal in the last mile of the presidential race.

PARIS, May 4, 2007 (AFP) - Rappers, rockers, actors and sports icons -- dozens of French showbiz heavyweights have thrown their star power behind right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist rival Segolene Royal in the last mile of the presidential race.

Both candidates' final rallies in the capital were star-studded events -- with more than 60,000 people packing a Paris stadium for an open-air rock concert that kicked off Royal's meeting on Tuesday.

Leading the trendy young line-up was Yannick Noah, the tennis champion-turned reggae singer whose father is from Cameroon and who has denounced Sarkozy's crime and immigration policies as "dangerous" for France.

Renaud -- one of France' best-known rockers who once wrote a vicious attack on former prime minister Margaret Thatcher -- took Royal by the hand for a long bow at the concert's end.

The crowd-pulling event drew attacks from Sarkozy's camp: "Segolene Royal makes a better concert organiser than she would a president," swiped former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

"Of course a four-hour free concert is bound to draw a crowd. Anyone can use that kind of trick to do what -- in a sense -- amounts to buying votes."

But Sarkozy's own final rally in Paris Sunday, which drew 40,000 people, also packed the star power, with top guests including rocker Johnny Hallyday, the French Elvis.

Support from showbiz and sports personalities is nothing new in French presidential campaigns, but it has reached new heights in the current race as candidates seek to fine-tune their image.

Marc Fourny, the chief editor of Gala celebrity magazine, said star-chasing was symptomatic of the Americanisation of French politics and drew a parallel with the Hollywood frenzy surrounding Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The French race has split the film world down the middle: Charlotte Rampling, the husky-voiced British actress who made France her home in the 1970s, has given her support to Sarkozy -- while Jane Birkin, the British former companion of late singer Serge Gainsbourg, backs Royal.

The grande dame of cinema, Jeanne Moreau, who won international acclaim with her role in Francois Truffaut's "Jules et Jim," is backing Royal.
 
And the 53-year-old Socialist has also turned up at a Paris comedy club to hear one her most enthusiastic supporters, Jamel Debbouze, who starred in the Oscar-nominated film "Indigenes" and "Amelie."

But the award-winning Jean Reno -- who shot to fame for his role as a hitman in the 1994 movie "Leon" -- helped Sarkozy's campaign by reading out his programme in an online version for the visually-impaired.

And blockbuster actor Gerard Depardieu says he will vote for Sarkozy as the "only able politician, who really works and does the job."

Sports stars have also split into rival camps: Sarkozy -- a long-distance runner and football fan -- boasts the support of formula one champion Alain Prost, judo icon David Douillet, ice-skater Philippe Candelero and footballers David Ginola and Basile Boli.

But others are fired up against him, including Noah and the French football star Lilian Thuram, who plays for Barcelona and has slammed Sarkozy as a "racist" for calling for a ministry for immigration and national identity.

Meanwhile some of Sarkozy's showbiz allies have risked turning into liabilities -- including when he was forced to defend Hallyday's controversial decision to go into tax exile in Switzerland.

Sarkozy may have hoped the support of the rapper Doc Gyneco, who wrote a book this year entitled "Great Minds Meet: Sarkozy and Me," would help smooth over his tough-guy reputation in the high-immigrant suburbs.

But Doc Gyneco briefly disappeared from Sarkozy's circle of celebrity friends after he was arrested for drunk driving in January.

On Tuesday Royal rounded on what she saw as the poor calibre of her rival's celebrity backers: "Doc Gyneco is no Andre Malraux, just as Nicolas Sarkozy is no General de Gaulle," she swiped, referring to the French author and statesman who served as minister in De Gaulle's post-war government.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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