French Election: Sarkozy and Hollande in Final Push

Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande are making their final pitch for votes in one of the most dramatic elections in recent French history.

France votes on Sunday in elections which could crown Francois Hollande as its first Socialist president in nearly two decades, marking a leftward shift at the heart of Europe and making Nicolas Sarkozy the region's 11th leader to be toppled by the economic crisis. Photo: Damien Roué/Flickr

The final polls show Nicolas Sarkozy making up ground on his Socialist challenger before Sunday’s election in France – but still suggest a Francois Hollande victory.

Before the official midnight deadline for campaigning to end on Friday, Hollande warned his supporters not to consider the election as being in the bag, tells Guardian. At his last campaign meeting in Périgueux in south-west France, the socialist said the battle was not yet won.

“It’s true that you are confident and you want to win. I feel it,” he told the crowd. “I don’t want to be a killjoy, but don’t make what could be the fatal mistake of thinking that the game is already over … that you needn’t turn out. I have to tell you that I am sure of nothing. This victory is still not certain.”

Sarkozy, asked Friday what he would do if he loses, simply answered: “There will be a handover of power.”

“The nation follows its course. The nation is stronger than the destiny of the men who serve it,” he said. “The fact that the campaign is ending is more of a relief than a worry.”

Sarkozy and Hollande engaged in a heated televised debate on Wednesday night, watched by an estimated 17.9 million people, reports the BBC.

If Hollande, the Socialist candidate, is elected the 24th president of the French republic, Sarkozy will be the first French president since Valery Giscard d’Estaing in 1981 not to win a second term.

According to The Huff Post, polls released Friday and Thursday show the gap between the candidates shrinking but results are still in Hollande’s favor.

A poll by the BVA agency estimates 52.5 percent support for Hollande and 47.5 percent for Sarkozy. A poll by the agency CSA shows 53 percent for Hollande and 47 percent for Sarkozy.

Both Sarkozy and  Hollande have reached out to voters who backed far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen who has already announced she would be leaving her ballot blank rather than vote for Mr Sarkozy or his rival.

Ms Le Pen, who attracted 6.4 million votes in the first round, said on Thursday that the election was over as Mr Sarkozy was “beaten a long time ago”.

“Each of you has the future of the country in your hands,” Sarkozy said at his final campaign meeting at the Sables-d’Olonne on France’s Atlantic coast. “Nobody’s vote counts more than another. You have no idea how many things are at play on this knife edge.”

Francois Hollande cast his vote for the presidential runoff in the central town of Tulle, Reuters reports, where he was mayor for seven years.

Hollande was shaking hands and kissing voters, many of whom he knows personally.

“I am confident. I am sure,” he said.

Nicolas Sarkozy was greeted by cheering crowds when he arrived to vote at a school in an up-market Paris neighborhood close to the home of his wife Carla Bruni.

“We are going to win” chanted supporters as the conservative leader briefly clasped the hands of well-wishers.

On Saturday, when the polling stations opened in France’s overseas territories, starting in the tiny islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon off the coast of Newfoundland, Hollande was mobbed as he made his usual tour of the market in the town of Tulle, his constituency in the Corrèze in central France.

Sarkozy was reported to be spending the day with his wife and six-month- old daughter, Giulia.

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