Sarkozy closes the gap


Incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy has closed the gap on his socialist rival François Hollande in the latest batch of opinion polls for the presidential election in April.

On Monday we will know how many candidates have been able to secure the required 500 official signatures to qualify them to stand in the election. However, the contest looks increasingly like a two horse race with a number of spoilers involved in the second tier.

A CSA poll conducted between 12th/13th March shows both Hollande and Sarkozy on 28%, a drop of 2% for Hollande on the previous poll. In the second round Francois Hollande still wins with 54% of the vote (down 2%) on Sarkozy at 46% (up 2%).

In recent speeches both candidates have been hardening their left/right credentials.

Sarkozy has been taking on traditional right wing policies and making them his own in an attempt to squeeze the right wing vote of National Front candidate Marine Le Pen. He has been on the attack on immigration and has threatened to suspend the Schengen Agreement (which allows borderless travel between the signatory states). The CSA poll suggests that this may not be a wise move, with 49% of those polled disapproving of the move and 48% supporting the idea. Le Pen could still take votes away from Sarkozy in the first round.

Meanwhile Francois Hollande has been reiterating his decision to tax the rich with a 75% income tax rate; he has pledged help for the suburban poor, tax breaks for businesses employing suburban youth, a fixed price for public transport and greater taxes on empty properties.

Hollande has faced a recent challenge from Jean-Luc Mélenchon who left the Socialist party in November 2008 to establish the Left Front (Front de gauche). Mélenchon has attacked the financial world and European austerity measures and as a result has increased in the opinion polls from around 6% in January to 13% in the latest CSA poll.

Nicolas Sarkozy has had one piece of good luck this week when his right wing rival Dominique de Villepin announced that he was standing down from the race. Villepin had been lingering on around 2% of the vote which Sarkozy should inherit.

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