PARIS - Scrambling to woo fat-right voters who backed anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen in the first round, French socialist presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande has toughened his stance on immigration, confirming that he will uphold ban on burqa.
"In the period of crisis we are going through, limiting economic immigration is necessary and essential," Hollande told RTL radio on Friday, April 27.
"I also want to fight illegal immigration on the economic front. It is not right that a certain number of employers, in a cynical way, are hiring illegal migrants," he said.
The socialist frontrunner won 28.56 percent of the vote, with Sarkozy coming second with 27.07 percent, and far-right leader Marine Le Pen third with 18.12 percent, according to near-complete interior ministry results.
Friday's concession came as Hollande prepared to face right-wind Nicolas Sarkozy in a May 6 run-off for the presidency.
France has been using the anti-immigrant rhetoric over the past months to woo far-right voters.
After the first round of elections, he has gone the furthest to reach out to Le Pen, insisting that her values are not incompatible with France's republican tradition, and vowing to secure Europe's borders and fight multiculturalism.
He also slammed Hollande on the voting rights issue, insisting that he would "defend the French way of life" against multiculturalism, raising the specter of immigrant-run town halls imposing Muslim cultural practices.
Using the same rhetoric to attract voters, Hollande repeated a pledge to ask parliament to cap the number of migrants allowed into France every year, but warned it would never halt the flow.
"I don't think there will ever be zero immigration," he said.
There will always be legal immigration. Can we reduce the number? That's a debate.
France's socialist presidential candidate promised, if elected, to uphold a law banning face-covering Muslim veils enacted by Sarkozy's conservatives.
Hollande admitted he would "maintain the law on the burqa and would apply it in the best of ways."
Last April 2011, a resolution by the French Parliament's higher chamber banning Muslim women from wearing face-covering garments in all public places came into effect.
Offenders would also be fined 150 euros ($189) or required to take part in a citizenship class.
The law, that took effect last year, has been surrounded by controversy.
Leader of the six-million Muslim minority, the largest Muslim minority in Europe, accused the law of unfairly stigmatizing Muslims.
While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil.
Scholars believe it is up to women to decide whether to take on the veil or burqa, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women.