'Third man' Bayrou to speak on presidential election duel

25th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 25, 2007 (AFP) - Francois Bayrou, the defeated centrist who holds the key to France's presidential election, was to announce Wednesday the creation of a new party though not endorse either of the two finalists, aides said.

PARIS, April 25, 2007 (AFP) - Francois Bayrou, the defeated centrist who holds the key to France's presidential election, was to announce Wednesday the creation of a new party though not endorse either of the two finalists, aides said.

Bayrou was to tell the 6.8 million voters who chose him in Sunday's first round that it is their personal decision whether to back right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy or socialist Segolene Royal on May 6, aides said ahead of a press conference.

The new centrist party will run candidates in legislative elections in June in the hope of influencing the future government, the aides said.

Bayrou was the surprise "third man" of the multi-candidate stage of the election, his 18.7 percent of the vote giving a major boost to his political credibility.

With presidential victory hinging on the Bayrou electorate, Sarkozy and Royal have both been seeking to lure the centrist camp with hints of future cooperation and ministerial posts.

Royal on Tuesday indicated she was willing to "add things" to her presidential programme in order to win Bayrou's support, and -- if elected -- to appoint ministers from his centrist party, which is currently called the Union for French Democracy (UDF).

At a rally in the southern city of Montpellier, Royal appealed to "all those men and women who want to expand our political family and give it all the colours of ther rainbow."

In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, Sarkozy -- who heads the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) -- said that there would be room in his "presidential majority" for politicians from the centre and the left, and that it was up to Bayrou to choose if he wanted to join.

"He has always been in an alliance of the right and centre. If he is to change now, that is his right -- but he has got to tell the voters," Sarkozy said.

Opinion polls gave varying figures on the division among Bayrou voters for round two. One said 46 percent will vote for Royal and only 25 percent for Sarkozy. But another put them much closer at 39 percent and 35 percent. Many said they will abstain or spoil their vote.

Six opinion polls have put Sarkozy ahead on May 6, though a SOFRES survey on Tuesday showed his lead narrowing to 51 percent to 49.

France is choosing a successor to 74 year-old President Jacques Chirac, the head of state since 1995, in an election that has become the focus of impassioned debate about the country's future.

There was a near record turn-out in the first round and a major reverse for far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who saw his vote fall back to 10.4 percent. Many said the election was a triumph for democracy after the shock of the 2002 vote when Le Pen qualified for round two.

Founded in 1978, Bayrou's UDF party is part of the Europe-wide Christian Democrat political movement and has been in almost permanent alliance with Chirac and the right.

However in the election campaign, Bayrou veered leftwards, winning support both from Socialists unconvinced by Royal's presidential stature and from UMP-supporters who feel Sarkozy is too authoritarian.

Many undecided voters were waiting for the televised debate on May 2 between Royal and Sarkozy before deciding who to vote for.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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