Bayrou dims hopes for Sarkozy

Bayrou dims hopes for Sarkozy

Bayrou dims hopes for Sarkozy

AFP Photo

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s chances of holding on to power were fading two days before France’s election runoff, with far-right and centrist leaders refusing to endorse him and his usually bland Socialist rival performing confidently in a TV debate. The last opinion polls before May 6 vote suggested that Socialist challenger François Hollande’s lead has narrowed to as little as five percentage points from as much as 10 in the last few days, as the race has tightened.

However, centrist François Bayrou buried one of Sarkozy’s last hopes of catching up when he announced he would vote for Hollande and left his supporters free to make up their own minds. Bayrou, who came fifth in the first round with 9 percent, attacked Sarkozy’s tough talk on immigration and Europe, aimed at winning over the nearly one in five voters who picked far-right leader Marine Le Pen in round one. The anti-immigration National Front leader also snubbed Sarkozy this week, saying she would cast a blank vote.

A bitter Sarkozy retorted on May 4 that Bayrou indicated that “having thought about it carefully,” he would vote for Hollande who [Sarkozy said] “will lead the country to bankruptcy in February,” Reuters reported.

Little gain for Sarkozy

Opinion polls conducted since May 2 evening’s television debate found Sarkozy making up ground against Hollande. However, even the challenger’s reduced advantage would be tough to overcome so close to the vote. Two polls by Ipsos and BVA found Hollande’s lead had narrowed by one percentage point, with 52.5 percent of voting intentions to Sarkozy’s 47.5 percent.

Surveys by CSA and Harris Interactive showed Hollande’s lead shrinking from eight points to six after the debate, with 53 percent support to Sarkozy’s 47 percent. TNS-Sofres showed Hollande’s score edging down 1.5 points to 53.5 percent from last week, with Sarkozy rising to 46.5 percent from 45 percent previously.