Villepin would beat Sarkozy in presidential match

2nd December 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 2 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin would defeat Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy if the two conservatives went head-to-head in a presidential election today, according to a poll published Friday.

PARIS, Dec 2 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin would defeat Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy if the two conservatives went head-to-head in a presidential election today, according to a poll published Friday.

The actual election is due in 2007.

The survey, conducted by the CSA institute and published in the weekly magazine Marianne, suggested that Sarkozy could still take over from President Jacques Chirac if he pursued a strategy that saw Villepin knocked out before a head-on duel.

According to the survey, 46 percent of 971 French adults questioned said they would prefer to see Villepin win if he was competing against Sarkozy, who garnered 41 percent.

No margin of error was given for the survey, which was conducted November 23.

Polls in France regularly put Villepin and Sarkozy at the top of the list of likely candidates to vie for the presidency.

Both received a boost from the public for their handling of the three weeks of unrest in impoverished suburbs that shook the country in October and November, and Sarkozy, who is also head of the ruling conservative UMP party, is often cited as France's most popular politician.

The 50-year-old interior minister's boundless energy and embrace of US-style economic models and political style may have nettled Chirac, but his hardline stance on security and immigration has won him widespread appeal from a broad spectrum of the electorate.

Fifty-two-year-old Villepin, however, is widely seen as more presidential in his bearing and more moderate in his rhetoric. He is helped by the fact that, physically, he towers over the diminutive Sarkozy.

On the other hand, the prime minister suffers image-wise from never having been elected to office and is thus treated with disdain by many UMP members, especially those who have fought for parliamentary seats.

Unlike Sarkozy, he has not clearly expressed any presidential ambitions, though Chirac has blatantly groomed him as his chosen successor.

Chirac himself, at 73, looks unlikely to run for a third mandate in 2007.

Even though the CSA survey appeared to give comfort to Villepin, it also suggested he might lose a second round because of the way the election works.

In France, presidential elections are at first open to all qualified comers -- even rivals from the same party -- with outright victory requiring more than 50 percent of the ballot. Failing that, the two leading candidates face off in a second round.

In April 2002, the left-wing vote was so fragmented in the first round that the left's favourite, then prime minister Lionel Jospin, came a disqualifying third, leaving Chirac to make easy work of extreme-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen in the run-off.

The fear for Villepin supporters is that the 2007 election could see Villepin -- who appeals to both left- and right-wing voters -- beaten by a left-wing candidate in the first round, who would then go into the second round against Sarkozy, and lose.

According to the CSA poll, Sarkozy would easily beat any of the current leading left-wing candidates. Against Socialist Party leader François Hollande, for instance, Sarkozy would emerge triumphant 54 to 35 percent.

A Sarkozy supporter, MP Patrick Devedjian, told Marianne that such a scenario was possible, citing recent wins for the left in local and regional elections since 2002.

"In the first round, we can suppose that the voters on the left will vote for a left-wing candidate rather than for Villepin," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

 

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