Paris: Three weeks ahead of the first round of
voting in the French presidential election, a record number of
voters are thinking of abstaining, testimony to widespread
frustration with a lack-lustre campaign.
An Ifop poll today said 32 per cent of voters could
abstain in the first round -- a record, up three percentage
points compared to two weeks ago.
Political analyst Vincent Tiberj, writing in the
left-leaning Le Monde daily, suggested that voters were bored
with the campaign that had "failed to live up its promises".
Neither President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has yet to announce
his manifesto ahead of the April 22 first round of voting, nor
Socialist Francois Hollande, his main rival whose early lead
over Sarkozy is slipping, have excited much passion.
With neither candidate likely to win an outright majority
in the first round of voting, a second round, with just two
candidates, will take place on May 6.
But fewer than half of voters (43 per cent) look forward
to that straight fight, according to the Ifop poll published
by the Journal du Dimanche on Sunday.
Voter frustration could translate into widespread
"Abstention is the danger in this presidential election,
much more than the scattering" of votes among left-wing
candidates, a worried Hollande said today during a campaign
trip to France`s Indian Ocean territory of Reunion.
The Socialist candidate well remembers how the 2002
presidential vote proved a disaster for his party.
An unprecedented abstention rate of 28.4 per cent
contributed to then Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin being
knocked out in the first round, giving conservative president
Jacques Chirac a clear run against far-right candidate
Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Hollande, whose early commanding position has recently
been weakened by the spectacular rise of Left Front candidate
Jean-Luc Melenchon, has increasing his attacks on Sarkozy`s
Today he slammed Sarkozy for failing to turn the tide of
unemployment, while decrying what he sees as growing social
inequalities, and an "abandoned youth."
Sarkozy, who so far has failed to restore hope among many
of those who voted for him five years ago, has yet to announce
In the meantime, the president has sought to control the
news cycle by multiplying new announcements.
Yesterday, he announced the creation of a "bank for youth"
that would finance job entries or studies for France`s