Divisions emerge as Sarkozy loses ground in polls

Reports of deep divisions within the President’s camp as he prepares to address supporters at a rally in the heart of Paris

Paris

New doubts and divisions appeared yesterday in the camp of President Nicolas Sarkozy, just a week before the first round of the French presidential elections.

A volley of four opinion polls showed President Sarkozy losing most of the ground gained in recent weeks on his principal rival, the Socialist candidate, François Hollande.

Three polls suggested that Mr Hollande was once again leading the President in voting intentions before the ten-candidate first round of the election a week tomorrow.

All four polls showed Mr Hollande winning the two-candidate second round on 6 May with a landslide of between 57 and 54 per cent of the vote.

Further twists and turns are possible.

Other surveys suggest that the turn-out could be the lowest in the history of French presidential politics, potentially skewing the result.

But the momentum of the campaign, which had been moving somewhat in Mr Sarkozy’s favour, appears to have switched back to Mr Hollande.

There were reports yesterday of deep divisions within the President’s camp as he prepares to address at least 30,000 supporters in a rally on the Place de la Concorde in the heart of Paris tomorrow.

Should he soften the hard-right and populist rhetoric of the last month and appeal to voters of the centre? Or should he continue with a frenetic approach which has thrown up new attacks and new ideas almost every day?

In an interview on live television on Thursday night, President Sarkozy found a surprising new target for his anger - the Financial Times. He also renewed his criticism of the British economy, which he said was “much worse than that of France”.

Mr Sarkozy said he was "delighted" that the Financial Times had criticised his economic record. "The FT has always defended the anglo-saxon model (of light regulation and non-intervention,” he said. “I don’t agree with them...The FT says we should do exactly as Britain does… but Britain's economic situation is much worse than ours". 

Whatever the rights and wrongs of such a claim, Mr Sarkozy risks confusing his own electorate on the French right and centre. Earlier this week he suggested that Mr Hollande’s economic programme would produce a market “melt-down” in a matter of days because it would offend the orthodoxy of London and New York-dominated financial markets.

President Sarkozy has gambled in the last month on a hard-right campaign, in which he has presented himself as the candidate of "the people" and a "silent majority" against an arrogant Parisian media and political "elite".

He has appealed to the voters of the far-right National Front by suggesting that French values and identity faced threats ranging from Islamist terrorism to halal meat.

Mr Sarkozy’s strategy was to build a substantial lead in the first round and then switch to a kinder, gentler message before the two candidate second-round two weeks later.

He began to attract votes away from the NF candidate Marine Le Pen and overtook or drew level with Mr Hollande in opinion polls for the first round (but not the second).

Mr Hollande, who is addressing a big open-air rally on the edge of Paris tomorrow, has also been challenged in the last month by a noisy, hard-left campaign by his former party colleague, Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The Socialist front-runner has held his nerve and may now be reaping the rewards.

He has persisted with his low-key brand of prudent socialism, promising to reduce France’s large budget deficit while promoting growth-creating policies in France and the European Union.

Three of the latest batch of polls suggest that Mr Melenchon’s rise may have peaked and that Marine Le Pen has once again seized third place.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory