Sarkozy Favored to Win French Election
[ News Report]
[Source: 4 May 07, Chicago Tribune]
By ANGELA CHARLTON Associated Press Writer Published May 4, 2007,
PARIS -- Nicolas Sarkozy, who would warm up relations with the United States and prod the French to work more, was favored to win presidential elections Sunday -- and to dash Socialist Segolene Royal's hopes at becoming France's first woman president.
Despite Royal's fierce final blows Friday, all final polls suggested that Sarkozy will win Sunday's runoff and take over this restless, troubled nuclear power from the aging Jacques Chirac.
If the polls prove right, France would have a president friendly toward the United States but not servile, who gladly shook President Bush's hand but wants a deadline on pulling out of Iraq and wouldn't favor war against Iran.
As president, Sarkozy says he would loosen labor laws to make the stagnant economy more competitive worldwide -- a formula that risks street protests by a populace deeply attached to its generous social protections. He promises to cut taxes, but also assert the state's interest in industrial giants.
Sarkozy would be the first child of an immigrant in the ElyseePalace -- his father fled Hungary's communists after World War II -- but would close France's doors to many immigrants.
He would also crack down on teen criminals and repeat offenders. Sarkozy's fierce language toward delinquents when he was interior minister helped make him enemy No. 1 among black and Arab youth in the down-and-out housing projects that erupted in riots in 2005, an explosion of anger over discrimination, joblessness and poverty.
Sarkozy and Royal offer starkly different solutions for France's woes. Royal, still combative and determined despite the polls, sought to portray Sarkozy as too unstable and too brutal to lead the nation. She let out all the stops Friday -- the last day she was allowed to speak publicly before Sunday's voting.
"The choice of Nicolas Sarkozy is a dangerous choice, I do not want France to be oriented toward a system of brutality," Royal said on RTL radio.
She said she felt a "responsibility to raise the alert about the risks of this candidacy and the violence and brutality that will be set off in the country. Everyone knows it, but no one says it. It is a kind of taboo."
Later Friday, she said if Sarkozy is elected, "democracy will be threatened." During a campaign stop in Rosporden, in northwestern France, she noted a security helicopter passing ahead and said: "They're watching us." Earlier this week, she even raised the prospect of "civil war."
Police are keeping watch for possible unrest in poor, immigrant-heavy neighborhoods if Sarkozy is elected. Community associations say they fear an outbreak of anti-Sarkozy violence, such as car burnings like those that marked the riots, on election night.
In an interview with the daily Le Parisien published Friday, Royal said Sarkozy has "the same neo-conservative ideology" as Bush. She said, "He mimics the American president's technique of compassionate conservatism," which she described as pretending to care but failing to act when people are suffering.
Sarkozy has openly praised many things about the United States. Still, Sarkozy calls the Iraq war "a historic error" and suggests import taxes on countries, such as the United States, that don't respect the Kyoto accords on global warming.
Sarkozy gently mocked Royal for being glum Friday and called her Bush comments "extreme." Sarkozy's camp says Royal's ideas are fuzzy and that she does not have enough experience.
"She is not in a good mood this morning, it must be the polls," he said on Europe-1 radio. Clearly confident, Sarkozy did not predict Sunday's outcome, but said: "I am waiting serenely for the French people's choice."
Three polls published Friday suggested that Sarkozy strengthened the lead he has commanded for months, giving him a winning margin of between six and nine percentage points. The solid figures for Sarkozy suggested he emerged the victor from the candidates' much-watched televised debate Wednesday, their only face-to-face encounter in the campaign.
On Friday, Royal shrugged off her low poll numbers, noting that some voters were still undecided.
"There is still hope," Royal said during a final campaign tour in Lorient in western France. "It's up to you to decide, not the polls," she said in an appeal to voters.
At Friday, the candidates and polling agencies must fall silent, to give voters a day of reflection before election booths open Sunday morning.
A poll taken Thursday by CSA-Cisco said Sarkozy had 53 percent to Royal's 47 percent. TNS-Sofres had Sarkozy at 54.5 percent and Royal at 45.5 percent after a survey Thursday. Another sounding, by Ipsos on Wednesday and Thursday, showed Sarkozy at 54 percent and Royal at 46 percent.
All three polls were conducted by telephone among pools of 1,000 to 1,400 people. The margin of error for all three would be about three percentage points.