Two days after the first round of the French presidential election, the race is on between the two remaining candidates to win the backing of centrist Francois Bayrou. Many believe his seven million voters could tip the balance. Socialist candidate Segolene Royal has made a clear appeal to the UDF leader, inviting him to an open dialogue. She also urged all those who oppose Nicolas Sarkozy’s project to join in an open and public debate. Bayrou’s camp has announced a press conference on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, frontrunner conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy took his campaign to the left-wing bastion of Dijon, urging voters to rally to what he calls his “new French dream”. He warned Royal against attempts to demonise him: “Why so much hatred against me?”, he asked a cheering crowd. “Is it because I say out loud what everyone else is thinking?”
The speech brought back memories of a televion debate between Royal and Sarkozy 14 years ago in which he claimed to be the target of hate – accusations which were ridiculed by Royal who urged her rival to stop acting as a victim. The two are due to meet in a televised debate on May 2, four days before the second round. While polls say a majority of Bayrou’s voters will side with Royal in the second round, they also predict a Sarkozy victory.