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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker