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French President Sarkozy 'Desperate' Ahead of First Round of Election

- Common Dreams staff

French President Sarkozy is showing his "desperation" ahead of Sunday's first round of the French presidential election with polls showing Socialist candidate François Hollande continuing his lead over the current president.

Official campaign posters for French President and UMP political party candidate Nicolas Sarkozy (R) and Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande, for the 2012 French presidential election, are displayed on a wall in Paris April 16, 2012. (REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer) The Guardian writes that Sarkozy is "the least popular French president to run for re-election."

Hollande told a rally it was "the left's turn to govern the country."

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The Guardian: French election frontrunners trade jibes on economy

France's presidential candidates have needled each other over the euro and the dire state of the French economy before Sunday's first-round vote, as the Socialist challenger François Hollande kept his lead over President Nicolas Sarkozy in most polls. [...]

[Sarkozy] is the least popular French president to run for re-election. If he fails to come first by a good margin in Sunday's vote, it would be difficult for him to win the final runoff on 6 May in which two remaining candidates face each other.

If Hollande wins on Sunday, he would be in a good position for the second round, which every poll for a year has predicted him winning.

Much will hinge on the combined overall score of all the candidates on the French left. If it is a historic high, of between 44-48%, as the polls suggest, it would make a Hollande victory more likely. The extreme-right Front National's Marine Le Pen and the radical left's Jean-Luc Mélenchon are vying for third place ahead of the centrist François Bayrou.

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BBC News: France election: Hollande and Sarkozy in final drive

Campaigning has focused on the economy, with Mr Sarkozy boasting of good economic growth in 2011, despite unemployment at 10%.

Both leading candidates have promised to balance the budget, but Mr Hollande has emphasised growth rather than austerity.

Mr Hollande told Europe 1 radio earlier on Friday that the country's budget woes were the result of five years of Mr Sarkozy's policies, and called for concerted European action to revive growth.

"The important thing is to put our public finances in order," he said.

"They've been turned completely upside down these past years due to irresponsible fiscal policy and the crisis."

He called for the European Central Bank (ECB) to take a radically different role by lending directly to troubled eurozone states rather than to banks, and by keeping interest rates low.

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FRANCE24: Moment of truth looms for a 'desperate' Sarkozy

“I have been in a battle, where for the past four weeks it has been me alone against nine other candidates,” Sarkozy complained to the French daily Le Figaro.

Insisting the regulations must be changed in future he said: “It will be the last election with these rules because all this leads to is a caricature of our democracy. The rules reflect equality but not the reality.”

University College London’s Philippe Marliere believes Sarkozy’s anger is a sign of the President’s increasing “desperation”.

“His argument is a bit ironic considering he has been in power for five years with so much media exposure,” said the French politics professor.

“The rule is only for a month and it shows all the candidates are equal before the law. It’s like he’s a child complaining about everyone ganging up on him. It really smacks of desperation,” Marliere added. “It’s a sign of someone who knows he is on course to lose.”

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