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Nicolas Sarkozy goes for broke but Le Pen scorns advances

Nicolas Sarkozy staged a huge election rally on Tuesday to rival France's traditional May Day.

Nicolas Sarkozy staged a huge election rally today to rival France’s traditional May Day show of force by the left,as Marine Le Pen scornfully rejected his bid to woo her far-right supporters.

Five days before Sarkozy was to face Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande in the second-round run-off of the French presidential election,he addressed a cheering crowd in Paris in front of the Eiffel Tower at Trocadero.

His campaign claimed 2,00,000 had turned out in bright spring sunshine to hear him attempt to don the nationalist mantle of General Charles de Gaulle and,while this figure was impossible to verify,the crowd was packed tight.

At the same moment,the French left and trade union movements,which are backing Hollande,were marching through Left Bank Paris towards another huge rally at the revolutionary venue of the Place de la Bastille.

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“I say this to the unions. Put down the red flag and serve France!” the right-wing incumbent declared,as supporters waved France’s tricolour banner.

Having spent the week since the first-round vote attempting to recruit far-right sympathisers from Le Pen’s anti-immigrant,anti-EU camp,Sarkozy rounded on the left,accusing the unions of failing ordinary workers.

He tried to silence critics of his bid to hijack what is traditionally a labour festival by recalling that De Gaulle had often addressed France on May Day,and urged France to turn its back on Socialism.

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“We have decided to gather under the Tricolour. I will never accept being lectured to by those who brandish the red flag,symbol of so many tyrannies,” he said,while four kilometres away the unions marched.

Promising a “new French model” based on hard work and entrepreneurship,he vowed to abolish collective bargaining and build an economy where “success will no longer be regarded with suspicion but as an example”.

The crowd chanted “We’re going to win! We’re going to win!”,but if Sarkozy does pull it off it will be despite stagnant growth,high unemployment and his having trailed Hollande in opinion polls for more than six months.

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The latest polls forecast that Hollande will win by around 54 per cent to Sarkozy’s 46,and his campaign is coasting towards tomorrow’s televised debate and Sunday’s election showdown with quiet confidence.

Campaigning outside Paris,Hollande said he would seek to be a successor to France’s last Socialist president Francois Mitterrand and accused Sarkozy of trying to divide France with his attacks on trade unions.

First published on: 02-05-2012 at 10:02:24 am
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