Sarkozy suffers a ‘horrible week’ as Hollande increases lead in polls



It has been a black week for Nicolas Sarkozy. At a pivotal time in the presidential election campaign, he has suffered what one French newspaper described as “une semaine horribilis”.

There was a mini-riot in which he was pelted with eggs by left-wingers and Basque nationalists. He made a serious blunder by announcing prematurely the evacuation of an injured French journalist from Syria. He has twice made ill-considered and intemperate remarks.

Worst of all, a tracking poll suggests that voting intentions for the first round of the  election  on 22 April are once again shifting in favour of the Socialist front-runner, François Hollande.  The IFOP daily poll – said to be the survey most watched by the Elysée Palace – put Mr Hollande 3.5 points ahead of Mr Sarkozy yesterday, compared to 1.5 per cent in the middle of the week.

Mr Hollande’s spectacular proposal on Monday to tax income over €1,000,000 at 75 per cent also appears to have damaged Mr Sarkozy. Although widely criticised at home and abroad, the super-tax idea seems to have solidified the Socialist candidate’s core vote.

Since President Sarkozy officially joined the campaign three weeks ago, he has been criss-crossing the country, declaring himself to be a “Frenchman among the French” ready to combat the Parisian “elite”. But his arrival in Bayonne, in the Basque country, in south west France on Thursday evening did no go according to plan.

Mr Sarkozy was met by a hostile crowd of 1,000 demonstrators, partly Basque nationalists and partly young left-wingers, who forced him to take refuge in a café. As eggs pelted against the café window, Mr Sarkozy angrily told accompanying journalists that the riot was the fault of Mr Hollande.

He said the Socialist candidate had announced two weeks ago that he would “purge” the French state of Sarkozy sympathisers if he was elected. This had “over-heated the mood of people at the grass-roots”, the president said.

The word that Mr Sarkozy chose – “epuration” or purge – is usually employed to refer to the witch-hunt of Nazi and Vichy sympathisers in 1944-5 in which 9,000 people were executed. The president’s use of the loaded term was decried by the French media yesterday as intemperate and a sign that Mr Sarkozy was losing his nerve.    

Mr Hollande said that it was a typical example of the President’s “culture of excess”. Earlier in the week, Mr Sarkozy had also been widely criticised for making a personal attack on Mr Hollande’s romantic partner, the TV journalist Valerie Trierweiller.

The president is often attacked by the Left for having wealthy friends. Mr Sarkozy suggested that Mr Hollande had no room to speak, since his girl-friend worked for the billionaire business tycoon, Vincent Bolloré. But as Ms Trierweiller angrily pointed out on Twitter, she merely worked for a TV station, Direct 8, which is partly owned by Mr Bolloré. 

French presidential voting intentions tend to solidify in late February and early March.  The President told supporters at the beginning of the week that his campaign had a fortnight in which to overtake Mr Hollande.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own