French candidates in battle for far-right votes

French candidates in battle for far-right votes

PARIS
French candidates in battle for far-right votes

President Sarkozy (C) speaks with a cafe owner as he campaigns in Longjumeau, a suburb of Paris. Sarkozy says Le Pen’s first-round result is not ‘reprehensible.’ AP photo

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist rival Francois Hollande stepped up their battle yesterday for the six million votes that went to the far right in the first round of France’s presidential election.

“It’s up to me to convince the National Front (FN) voters,” Hollande told Liberation newspaper, arguing that many of them were in fact left-wing and their support for the anti-immigrant, anti-EU party was a protest vote. Hollande gave a lengthy interview to Liberation to explain that the massive FN vote was the expression of “social anger” and that he hoped to be able to bring these millions of disgruntled voters back to the mainstream. At a rally in Longjumeau in the Paris suburbs yesterday, Sarkozy hammered home the themes he has pushed for months, protecting “the French way of life,” reducing immigration, and encouraging hard work.

He said the FN’s first-round result, which shocked many in France and raised concerns across Europe, was not “reprehensible” because Le Pen had the right to stand for office and was therefore “compatible with the republic.” “The FN vote must be understood,” Agence France-Presse quoted him as telling to supporters. Le Pen on April 22 said that she will give her “opinion” to her supporters on whom to back in the decisive second vote.

France, Sarkozy, Hollande