With the presidential elections fast approaching, incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy is stepping up the rhetoric, as he lags behind in the polls.
Sarkozy wants France and Europe to follow America’s example, promoting small and medium-sized enterprises, known as SME’s, allowing them to benefit from state money.
“France now requires that a part public markets be reserved for European SMEs. If for one year we have not progressed, France unilaterally will apply its own Charter of SMEs until the negotiations succeed,” he told a gathering of supporters.
Sarkozy could be trying to attract voters from the far-right striving to close his rival’s double-digit lead, according to Steven Erlanger, Paris Bureau Chief for the New York Times.
“I think it is very deliberately moving to the right to make sure that he wins the votes of people who are tempted to vote for Marine Le Pen.His real risk is the hidden vote for the National Front because people still lie to the pollsters,” Erlanger said.
A tough stance on immigration would help Sarkozy take votes from Marine Le Pen, who is currently in third position.
Sarkozy has even threatened to pull France out of the EU’s visa-free Schengen zone if more is not done to tackle illegal immigration.
The man to beat is front-runner Francois Hollande, who will be the first socialist president in seventeen years if he wins.
The first round will be on April 22, with a run-off on May 6.