French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Francois Hollande held their biggest campaign rallies a week before the first round of voting as polls showed the challenger widening his lead.
They addressed supporters in Paris yesterday with Hollande extending his advantage in a head-to-head race by two points to 56 percent against 44 percent, according to a TNS Sofres survey on April 13. The challenger took the lead in the 10-person first round set for April 22. A CSA poll on April 12 put the gap at 57-43, up from eight points two weeks ago.
A bounce for Sarkozy after police killed a self-declared jihadist who murdered seven people last month has ebbed. The campaign focus has returned to the sputtering economy and rising unemployment.
Hollande’s message yesterday was for voters to turn out and punish Sarkozy for his “bankrupt leadership.” “You must vote for France, for the republic,” he said, blaming Sarkozy for mounting debt and slowing growth. Sarkozy said electing a Socialist government risked economic catastrophe.
Both campaigns claimed that more than 100,000 attended the rallies -- Sarkozy’s at place de la Concorde in central Paris and Hollande’s at Vincennes park at the city’s eastern edge.
France is in a “race against time” and “has no right to err” in fighting Europe’s financial crisis, Sarkozy told the flag-waving throngs that stretched down the Champs Elysees.
“If we do not want to risk losing our agriculture, our factories, our jobs, our way of life, our culture, then we must learn the lessons of these terrible crises the world has just experienced,” Sarkozy said.
With ubiquitous banners declaring “Now Is The Time,” Hollande criticized Sarkozy for failed and divisive policies. “He wants to arouse all the old fears -- of foreigners, of others, of the crisis, of the left -- because he’s afraid to lose,” the lawmaker and former Socialist Party chief said.
With Hollande advocating a renegotiation of Europe’s fiscal-discipline treaty, Sarkozy called on the European Central Bank to do more to support growth, reviving an issue he raised in his 2007 campaign.
The TNS Sofres poll questioned 1000 people on April 11-12, while CSA questioned 1,123 on April 10-11. Neither published a margin of error.
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