THE JOURNAL consists of selected, most notable and newsworthy POSTINGS OF THE DAY.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

French Presidency

French Presidential Candidates, Sarkozy (right) and Royal (left) - AFPpic.

Sarkozy and Royal back on campaign trail in presidential duel

French presidential contenders Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal were back on the campaign trail Monday, reaching out to centrist voters who could tip the balance in the run-off ballot on May 6.

Sarkozy, at a rally in the central Burgundy region, appealed to those "who voted for other candidates in the first round and to men and women of good will" to join his rightwing camp.
"They have their place (there) once they too share the values of national identity, of work, of merit, of public-spiritedness, of justice," the candidate, who tops the opinion polls, told thousands of cheering supporters in the city of Dijon.

The socialist Royal told journalists ahead of a rally in the southern town of Valence she was ready for "an open and public debate" with Francois Bayrou, who came in third place in Sunday's first round but whose voters will be kingmakers in the second round.

Clearly positioned on the right and left of the political divide, both Sarkozy and Royal are desperate to secure the 18.57 percent of voters who backed Bayrou in round one. Though his small Union for French Democracy (UDF) party has normally been allied to the right, Bayrou veered leftwards in the campaign - and there was widespread speculation about how his electorate will divide up. Bayrou is to make a public statement on Wednesday, his office said, in which he should reveal if he is making an endorsement.

France is voting for a successor to 74-year-old Jacques Chirac -- president since 1995 -- in an election that has become the focus of impassioned debate over the nation's future direction.
Sarkozy, the 52-year-old head of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), has pledged a "clean break" from the politics of the past consensus. His campaign has centered around themes such as the work ethic, national identity and economic liberalisation.

Royal, who would be France's first woman president, promises to protect the country's generous social welfare system and has tabled left-wing economic policies. The 53-year-old told supporters Sunday night that she opposes a "France ruled by the law of the strongest and the most brutal."

Sarkozy's tough-talking persona has sparked widespread fears that he lacks the temperament to be head of state, while critics say Royal lacks the necessary experience. Fresh from their victory in Sunday's multi-candidate first round, the two rivals embarked on a gruelling schedule of rallies and television appearances to build support for the May 6 decider. The two camps also held discussions over a television debate on May 2, which should be the high point of the second round campaign.

In a clear bid to broaden his appeal, Sarkozy's first stop Monday was at a home for battered women in Paris, where he spent an hour hearing the problems of a group of residents. "I want to take responsibility for those who suffer. I want to say to those whose lives are broken, whose lives are smashed -- that there is hope," he said. Sarkozy was accompanied by Simone Veil, 79, a Holocaust survivor who sponsored France's first law legalising abortion and is a heroine for many women.

Five opinion polls taken since Sunday's vote showed that Sarkozy is clear favourite to be the next president, with a lead of between four and eight percentage points over Royal. Sarkozy won 31.18 percent of Sunday's vote ahead of Royal on 25.97 percent. Combined with a near record turn-out of 83.77 percent, the result was hailed as a sign of the public's eagerness for a clear left-right presidential choice - AFP.