France will elect the President tomorrow

By Reuters

Socialist presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande appealed to French voters to throw out conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and shun the far right in a final push for working-class votes before Sunday’s first round of the election, Reuters writes.

As Sarkozy campaigned in the Mediterranean city of Nice, where the far right enjoys strong support, Hollande urged those angry over unemployment and economic gloom and tempted by National Front leader Marine Le Pen to listen to him instead.

In the industrial northeast, Hollande spoke of hardships: “This is a region that put its faith in Nicolas Sarkozy, who came here making speeches on industry, jobs, workers. Everybody can see the scale of the disappointment,” he said.

“Now, it’s the Left’s turn to govern the country,” he told a crowd in Charleville-Mezieres, the town where Sarkozy first used his “working more to earn more” 2007 campaign pledge.

Sarkozy faces defeat in part because his pledge was derailed by an economic crisis which drove up jobless claims to a 12-year high. A dislike of his personal manner also weighs against him.

A swathe of final polls published on Friday mostly showed Sarkozy’s support eroding while Hollande’s backing held steady.

At a packed concert hall in Nice, Sarkozy urged a crowd of several thousand to prove the polls wrong. “Don’t let your voice to be stolen – impose your victory, come out en masse on Sunday to cast your votes,” he said.

“The policies we have conducted for the past five years belong to history now and history will decide,” Sarkozy said in a 55-minute speech delivered without notes. “I say that so every French person can make up his mind with all the facts.”

The two rivals are about 10 points ahead of third-ranked Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, in surveys for Sunday’s first round, with hard leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, the surprise of the campaign, challenging Le Pen for third place.

Sarkozy and Hollande are set to face off in a May 6 decider for which the Socialist has a comfortable lead of between 7 and 14 percentage points.

That would give France its first left-wing head of state in 17 years just as new concerns over debt in the euro zone are throwing strained public finances in the bloc’s number two economy under the spotlight.

The risk premium investors charge for holding French 10-year bonds over German Bunds rose above 1.50 percentage points in a possible foretaste of market jitters over an Hollande victory.

Traders think he may face pressure to go beyond his centre-left programme if a resurgent hard left makes gains in June parliamentary elections and possibly holds the balance of power.

For many ordinary voters, the election is a choice between two styles of leadership. “He’s (Sarkozy) too arrogant, too sure of himself. Flaunting his wealth when people are unemployed,” said Rene Taze, a middle-aged engraver eating lunch in a Paris bistro With his paper supplier.

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