Sarkozy takes first poll lead after anti-EU speech

Sarkozy takes first poll lead after anti-EU speech

Sarkozy takes first poll lead after anti-EU speech

AP Photo

French President Nicolas Sarkozy pulled ahead of his Socialist rival for the first time in France’s election race yesterday, according to a poll conducted after the right-winger took a strident anti-EU turn.

The survey forecast that Sarkozy would lead in the first round but still lose out to Francois Hollande in the second. His spokeswoman claimed there was “panic” among the Socialists after the Ifop poll that said the president would would win 28.5 percent of the vote in the first round in April, against 27 percent for Hollande. Hollande is still on course to win the second round in May with 54.5 percent against Sarkozy’s 45.5 percent, the poll said. In his speech, Sarkozy threatened to pull France out of Schengen zone unless the EU does more to keep out illegal immigrants and demanded the EU adopt measures to fight cheap imports.

Gadhafi aid allegations
Sarkozy also angrily denied receiving money from deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to fund his first presidential run in 2007, as one news website reported earlier in the day. Website Mediapart said that the Libyan regime gave $65.70 million to Sarkozy’s campaign, citing a document being used to investigate a 2002 bombing in the Pakistani city of Karachi, which killed 11 French citizens. The report comes just six weeks before the first round of the presidential election on April 22.

“If he (Gadhafi) had financed it, then I haven’t been very grateful,” Sarkozy said. Gadhafi’s son and heir apparent Saif al-Islam last year claimed that Libya financed Sarkozy’s campaign, after Paris abandoned its improving ties with Libya and threw its weight behind the rebellion that eventually deposed and killed the dictator. Meanwhile, French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen has secured the backing of enough local government officials to run in the election.

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.