French President Nicolas Sarkozy pulled ahead of Socialist Francois Hollande in first-round voting intentions for the first time in the 2012 presidential election campaign, a poll showed. Hollande maintained his lead in second-round support.
Sarkozy leads in first-round intentions by 28.5 percent to 27 percent, according to a bi-weekly Ifop Fiducial poll for Europe 1 radio, Paris Match and Public Senat. The survey was carried out on March 11 and 12 among a sample of 1,638 people. The margin of error is about 2.1 percentage points.
The survey, taken after Sarkozy called for a “Buy European” act and tougher border controls, suggests that the French leader may be winning over supporters from National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, whose backing fell by one point to 16 percent. Hollande remains ahead in the second round with 54.5 percent, compared with 45.5 percent for Sarkozy.
“It is a turning point in the campaign,” Ifop pollster Frederic Dabi said today on Europe 1 radio. “Yet the right has few reserves for the second round.”
Hollande, a Socialist lawmaker and former party chief, has been ahead of Sarkozy ever since he declared his candidacy on March 23 last year. The gap for first-round voting intentions widened to as much as 10 points in October, according to the Ifop poll series.
“We must look at this poll with calm,” Pierre Moscovici, Hollande’s campaign chief, told reporters in Paris today. “We can see that the incumbent president is doing everything he can to keep power.”
Faced with an unemployment rate of almost 10 percent, Sarkozy has found it difficult to show that his first term was a success, even while arguing that France has fared better than countries such as the U.K. and Spain. Sarkozy claims credit for sheltering France from the euro-region’s crisis and says that France’s strong role has helped save Greece.
“For the past five years I’ve put everything into protecting the French people from crises,” he said at a March 11 meeting in the town of Villepinte where more than 50,000 supporters rallied. Sarkozy also called for a “Buy European Act” modeled on similar U.S. laws for some public contracts.
The first round of the elections will be held on April 22. Under France’s election system, the top two candidates will then face off in the decisive second round on May 6.
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