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French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s struggle to avoid a shock first round exit in the April presidential elections just got a lot harder.A new poll on Thursday of voting intentions showed far-right candidate Marine Le Pen had risen to 21 per cent, just two points adrift of the Conservative incumbent, Reuters reports.
The daily poll, conducted by Ifop for Paris Match, also showed that Socialist Francois Hollande remained the frontrunner at 27 per cent. The poll was the latest to raise the possibility of an upset in the first round of the upcoming elections. Hollande is already tipped to beat Sarkozy in a head-to-head, 57 per cent to 43 per cent.
Sarkozy’s lowest Ifop rating since July comes on the heels of France’s rating downgrade. Worse still, the downgrading vis-à-vis Germany, which retains its Triple-A rating, means that President Sarkozy can no longer present himself as an equal partner of Germany and Angela Merkel.
Le Pen has already proposed that France renounce the euro for the franc and leave the European Union — something sure to find an audience given the current European situation. And of course, she proposes to reduce legal immigration from 200,000 a year to 10,000, The New York Times reports (a position Sarkozy seems to have echoed with his record deportation numbers last year).
Her protectionist stance has struck a chord with disillusioned voters. A recent poll showed some 30 per cent of the French agreed with Le Pen’s ideas, according to Reuters.
Experts are reluctant to make a prediction, but a number of scenarios are now possible. If Sarkozy manages to defeat Le Pen, he will most likely be defeated himself by Hollande. However, if Le Pen overtakes Sarkozy in the first round of voting, as recent trends seem to show, analysts say she would most likely be beaten by Hollande in a repeat of the 2002 French elections, where Le Pen’s father, having bested Socialist Lionel Jospin, was himself routed by Jacques Chirac.