Sarkozy wins poll boost in race for presidency

Asked about the poll, Sarkozy told reporters, "I didn`t believe you when you said it was all over".

Paris: French President Nicolas Sarkozy heard
his first welcome news in a while on Tuesday in his battle for
re-election.

For the first time in this campaign, a new poll suggests
the long-unpopular president could beat Socialist Francois
Hollande in the first round of voting next month, but it, like
all previous polls, indicates Hollande would win in the
crucial runoff.

Sarkozy publicly shrugged off the new estimates, and the
campaign remains full of uncertainties.

The conservative leader has shifted visibly to the right
in his campaign, with calls for a crackdown on immigration and
criticizing measures accommodating French Muslims. He`s trying
to tap votes from the resurgent far right and its candidate
Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen won a victory of her own today, as her party
announced that she has obtained the 500 signatures from
elected officials necessary to formalize her bid for the
presidency.

Far right candidate Philippe Poutou also announced
Tuesday that he has enough signatures.

Sarkozy and Hollande are the main players in a campaign
that is shaping up as a referendum on the divisive, blunt
incumbent.

Many voters say they`ll vote for Hollande mainly to keep
Sarkozy out of the Elysee Palace -- not because they are
passionate about Hollande, a jovial legislator who led the
Socialist Party through a troubled decade and has few dramatic
campaign pledges.

A poll by the Ifop agency released today says that 28.5
per cent of 1,638 respondents plan to vote for Sarkozy in the
first round, with 27 percent for Hollande.

The difference falls within the margin of error for the
poll, which is 1.6 to 2.5 per cent, according to Ifop pollster
Frederic Dabi. That means that the two are statistically
really about even.

For the second round, the new poll says Hollande would
win by a 9-point spread. Still, the new figures reflect the
overall trend in recent weeks of Sarkozy gaining on Hollande.

The first-round difference was reversed in the last Ifop
poll two weeks ago, with Hollande at 28.5 percent and Sarkozy
at 27 percent. That time, too, the difference fell within the
margin of error.

The latest poll was conducted between Sunday and Monday
night, right after Sarkozy made a major campaign speech in
which he threatened to suspend France`s participation in
Europe`s border-free travel zone if immigration isn`t brought
under control.

Asked about the poll, Sarkozy told reporters, "I didn`t
believe you when you said it was all over. And I don`t believe
you anymore when you say it`s on the rebound." He, however,
couldn`t contain his broad smile.

PTI

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