Sarkozy closes gap as France poll campaign heats up

Right-wing incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy is closing the gap with Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande.

Updated: Mar 16, 2012, 18:35 PM IST

Paris: With just over a month to go on Friday
before the first round of France`s presidential vote,
right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy is closing the gap with
Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande.

As polls showed Sarkozy cutting his rival`s lead after
several weeks of campaigning and a swerve to the right,
Hollande was also facing a new threat on his left flank from
firebrand Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The campaign was to move into a new phase Friday with
the deadline at 1700 GMT for would-be candidates to hand in
the 500 signatures from local mayors and other elected
officials that they need to be registered to run.
The key players were all expected to reach the target
but some fringe candidates, including conservative former
prime minister Dominique de Villepin, were facing the prospect
of failing to make the cut.

Keen to regain momentum, Hollande made a three-hour
appearance on France 2 public television yesterday night, in a
move newspaper Liberation described as "an attempt to give his
campaign a second wind".

Hollande sought to cement his left-wing credentials,
vowing to boost taxes on the rich and not backing down on his
plan to introduce a 75-per cent tax rate on incomes above one
million euros (USD 1.3 million).

In the face of calls from Sarkozy for France to
tighten immigration rules, Hollande said he would set up a
special brigade to fight people-smugglers and hold annual
debates in parliament to set the number of immigrants allowed
in.

PTI