Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- President Nicolas Sarkozy said France avoided a “catastrophe” under his rule, while accusing his Socialist challenger of not understanding the depth of the financial crisis.
“You can’t be trusted to lead the country out of the crisis if you deny its existence,” Sarkozy said at an election rally in Marseille, France, today. “Think of a Greek civil servant with his salary cut, think of a Portuguese retiree with his pension cut, think of thousands of Americans forced to live in trailer homes. The truth is that France was not swept away by a crisis of confidence, that pensions were not cut, that unemployment didn’t explode.”
The rally was Sarkozy’s second since announcing on Feb. 15 that he’s seeking a second five-year term. Sarkozy, 57, has lagged Socialist challenger Francois Hollande, also 57, in every poll ahead of the first round of voting on April 22.
Sarkozy has made the value of work one of his campaign themes, saying he’ll call a popular vote on requiring the long- term unemployed to undergo job training.
“It’s the work of some that gives work to others,” Sarkozy said, criticizing previous Socialist governments for introducing the 35-hour work week. “Loving France is realizing that someone who doesn’t work is always at the charge of someone who does.”
Sarkozy said he’d broken with the tendency of previous governments to retreat in the face of street protests, noting that he’d raised the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60. Without naming Hollande, he also reiterated statements he made in previous speeches, suggesting that his Socialist opponent would weaken France by closing nuclear power plants and regularizing illegal immigrants.
Hollande said earlier in the day he wouldn’t respond to every Sarkozy attack. “I’m not going to get involved with put- downs, with low blows,” he said during a visit to a Paris market. “I’m going to run based on my program.”
On a television program Feb. 16, Hollande pointed out that he only wants to close one aging nuclear power plant.
Backing for Sarkozy in the first round gained 0.5 percentage point to 26 percent since Feb. 5, while support for Hollande slipped 2 percentage points to 32 percent, according to an LH2 poll for Yahoo! published today. Support for Marine Le Pen dropped 1 percentage point to 14 percent.
In a separate poll conducted by Ifop for Le Journal du Dimanche published today, Sarkozy’s approval rating gained 1 percentage point to 33 percent from last month. The poll was conducted among 1,923 voters and no margin of error was given.
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