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Sarkozy Woos Far-right, Jewish Voters

Published: 13/02/2012 09:21:32 AM GMT
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PARIS - Trailing in the polls and with elections just 10 weeks away, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been accused of leaning further to the far-ri (more)

PARIS - Trailing in the polls and with elections just 10 weeks away, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been accused of leaning further to the far-right with anti-immigrants' rhetoric to woo supporters of National Front leader Marine Le Pen, Reuters reported on Sunday, February 12.

"The terms that have been used, the words that he has used, really make one think that he wants to go looking for the voters who today are more leaning toward Marine Le Pen," French presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande said.

Earlier this week, Sarkozy repeated his opposition to gay marriage in an interview published on Saturday.

The president also insisted on limits to immigration in the interview with Le Figaro Magazine, published just days after one of his top ministers stirred up a political storm by saying that all civilizations were not equal.

Hollande, who is expected to beat Sarkozy by 10 percentage points in a May 6 runoff, according to an OpinionWay poll, condemned Sarkozy's rhetoric as bad to the French community.

He opines that Sarkozy's far-right ideas were leaning towards separating the community and stigmatizing people.

"This is undoubtedly part of his strategy but it's bad for society," Hollande added in an interview with television station Canal Plus.

"The role of a president, right to the end, even as a candidate, is to unite a country, to raise its spirits and not to stigmatize people, or to play on their fears."

The French presidential elections, planned this spring, will witness the contest of Hollande, Sarkozy and Le Pen as the frontrunners.  

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose popularity has plummeted over climbing unemployment and painful spending cuts, have worked hard to court the far-right supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Along with the niqab ban, Sarkozy's ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party started a debate last April on the role of Islam in secular France.

Playing far-right anti-immigrants policies, Interior Minister Guéant drew up new rules for foreigners trying to become French citizens which were enforced as of January 1, including new tougher tests.

Despite Guéant moves against immigrants, the far-right National Front party (FN) continued to bite into its pool of voters.  

French Jews

Along with anti-immigrants debates, Sarkozy have been trying to lure one of his most reliable bases of support; French Jews.

“France won't compromise on Israel's security because Israel is a miracle,” Sarkozy said in an earlier Elysée meeting with Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on Sunday.

“France will never accept the questioning of Israel's security.”

With a stumbling economy, French Jews are not expected to offer him the same support he won the last French presidential election in 2007.

Not only economy. A French opposition to a military action against Iran and support for Palestinian membership at the UNESCO has also riled many in the Jewish community.

“A lot of Jews who voted for him are disappointed today,” said Ralph Bohbot, who was one of 1,000 Jewish community members at the CRIF dinner and identified himself as a member of the Alliance Centriste political party.

“He didn't know how to handle the economic crisis.”

Hollande, an outspoken supporter of Israel, was expected to gain the votes Sarkzoy lost in the Jewish community

“Hollande has a steady position,” Robert Hue, a left-leaning senator and Hollande supporter

“It might evoke less of the emotional discourse that was heard tonight” from Sarkozy, he said, but Hollande “is more into factual reality, so that we can advance and get somewhere."

France is home to Europe's biggest Muslim and Jewish communities, estimated at 6 million and 500,000 respectively.

Sarkozy is battling to catch up with Hollande in the polls, ahead of the two-round election on April 22 and May 6.

An LH2 poll for Yahoo had Hollande winning 34 percent of the vote in the first round with Sarkozy getting 25.5 percent and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen third with 15 percent.

Le Pen has at times been snapping at Sarkozy's heels in opinion polls, raising the question of whether she might make it to a runoff against Hollande.

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