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Royal's tactics fail to threaten Sarkozy's lead in race for French presidency

Royal's tactics fail to threaten Sarkozy's lead in race for French presidency

Try as she might, Socialist Segolene Royal cannot seem to close the gap that distances her from conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in their race for the French presidency.
With just five days until the nation chooses between their starkly different visions for France, polls Monday suggested Royal was making minor inroads but would need a political thunderbolt to overtake Sarkozy and become the nation's first woman president.
Both candidates are looking to a televised debate Wednesday likely to highlight their personality differences as much as their political ones, though a poll showed that most voters say the face-off will have little effect on the outcome of Sunday's runoff.
Royal, runner-up in the April 22 first round of voting, has fought hard to court the nearly 7 million people who voted for third-placed lawmaker Francois Bayrou.
Bayrou tapped voter resentment of the old left-right disputes and has not endorsed either candidate. But he reserves his fiercest criticism for Sarkozy, and joined Royal in an amiable debate Saturday that she was hoping would help her cause.
Royal's high-stakes gamble for centrist votes may be bearing fruit.
Some 40 percent of Bayrou's voters favor Royal _ up 5 points from last week _ compared with 30 percent for Sarkozy, pollster Ipsos said. Royal narrowed the gap between herself and Sarkozy, with 47.5 percent to his 52.5 percent, according to the poll.
Another poll, by LH2 agency, showed Royal gaining _ and Sarkozy falling _ two percentage points from its previous sounding. She climbed to 48 percent to Sarkozy's 52 percent.
Royal has remained behind for months, and none of last week's maneuvering appeared to force a serious shift.
Royal said in a TV interview Sunday that if elected she would consider Bayrou for her prime minister. "I don't rule anything out," she said on Canal Plus.
But in an interview with Le Monde published Monday she said a "very good prime minister" could be Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a respected, center-leaning former finance minister whom she beat out for the Socialist nomination.
Her musings may be moot, as she acknowledged in the Monde interview. Royal said she was fighting an uphill battle because voters assume Socialists are weak on economic issues, and "since I am a woman, there is a prejudice of incompetence."
Sarkozy and Royal offer very different formulas to get France back on its feet after 12 stagnant years under Jacques Chirac. Sarkozy would loosen labor laws and cut taxes, while Royal would hike government spending and preserve generous worker protections.
Royal pledged Monday to stage a national conference to "reconcile economic performance and social progress: This is what a modern country is."
Sarkozy has also reached out to midstream voters. At his last big Paris rally Sunday, he cast himself as a unifier and pledged to look out for ordinary citizens and the downtrodden.
A potential Sarkozy prime minister, Francois Fillon, said in an interview with business daily Les Echos on Monday that, if elected, Sarkozy's government would meet immediately with unions to discuss labor concerns.
Royal has sought to capitalize on an "Anything But Sarkozy" movement grounded in fear that he is too impulsive and emotional to be head of state. She said his speech Sunday had "great violence and great brutality."
Sarkozy has played the victim, while his aides have sought to portray Royal as wishy-washy and inexperienced.
The Ipsos poll was conducted Thursday, Friday and Saturday among 1,367 people nationwide by telephone. LH2 polled 1,002 adults Friday and Saturday. The margin of error is about plus or minus 3 percentage points for each.


Updated : 2021-03-07 19:55 GMT+08:00