In the final day of campaigning for the French presidency, Socialist candidate Francois Hollande was trying hard to avoid appearing too confident. Conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy apologized for past mistakes.
Hollande appeared to be a shoe-in for the French presidency on Friday, with polls saying he would reap 27 to 30 percent in the first round of elections on Sunday. That leaves him between seven and 14 points ahead of Sarkozy. Still, he remained cautious.
"We aren't yet at the finish line," Hollande said at one of his final election rallies on Friday.
Sarkozy's camp was anxious to get across that same message. His campaign spokeswoman, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, warned against drawing forgone conclusions and pointed to French voters' unpredictability.
"I think that there will be big surprises," she told Le Parisien newspaper, due to "the silent French, who don't express themselves in the media or on the Internet."
However, polls indicate that Sarkozy is the most unpopular president in French history, with only 36 percent of the electorate viewing him positively. They blame him for France's economic problems, high unemployment and behavior described as flashy and overbearing that some say is unbecoming in a president.
Sarkozy himself suggested on Friday that he may have made mistakes at the beginning of his five-year term as head of state.
"Perhaps the mistake I made at the start of my mandate is not understanding the symbolic dimension of the president's role and not being solemn enough in my acts," Sarkozy told RTL radio. "A mistake for which I would like to apologize or explain myself and which I will not make again. Now, I know the job," he added.
Ten candidates are running for France's highest office, including far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, polling between 14 and 16 percent, and leftist firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, who polls say will win around 14 percent.
Campaigning and opinion surveys may not take place after midnight on Friday.
A second round of voting will be held on May 6 between Sunday's top two winners.
ncy/pfd (AFP, Reuters)