Opinion polls show French President Nicolas Sarkozy having narrowed the gap on the frontrunner ahead of Sunday's election run-off. However, it doesn't appear to be enough to renew his lease on the Elysee Palace.
Opinion polls released just 48 hours before the polls open in the run-off vote in France's presidential election show that the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, has narrowed the gap on his frontrunner challenger, but with Francois Hollande still comfortably in the lead.
A survey by the BVA polling company gave Hollande 52.5 percent of the vote compared to 47.5 percent for the incumbent Sarkozy. That's two more percentage points for Sarkozy than the pollster's last survey, released prior to Wednesday's televised presidential debate and two less for Hollande.
This is just one of a number of opinion polls that indicate that Sarkozy's performance in the debate helped him to make up some of the ground against his challenger. An OpinionWay poll showed Sarkozy narrowing the gap to as little as five percentage points.
Hollande's advantage still significant
All of the polls, though, agree that the ground that Sarkozy seems to have made up due to his combative performance in the debate will not be enough to win him a second term in office. Hollande, who has led the polls from the start of the campaign now appears almost certainly set to become France's first Socialist president since the end of the second term of Francois Mitterand in 1995.
Some saw the fact that far-right candidate Marine Le Pen declined to endorse Sarkozy in the run-off as a major setback. Le Pen, of the National Front (FN) took almost a fifth of the votes in last month's first round, and her endorsement might have convinced many of those voters to choose the conservative Sarkozy. The UMP candidate took great pains to try to appeal to FN voters, even before Le Pen instructed them not to vote for either of the runoff candidates - saying she would cast a blank ballot.
Sarkozy received a second blow on late Thursday when Francois Bayrou, a centrist candidate who finished fifth, taking nine percent of the vote in the first round, threw his support behind Hollande, apparently due to Sarkozy's efforts to court the far-right.
"The line that Nicolas Sarkozy chose between the two rounds is violent; it contradicts our values, not just mine," Bayrou told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.
pfd/ipj (Reuters, AFP)