Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday renewed his bid to convince National Front voters to back him in the second-round of the French presidential election.
The incumbent head of state told French television that he would cut legal immigration by half, but he did not say how or by when.
“The word border is not a swear-word. It’s a mistake to take them down when Europe does defend its own borders,” Sarkozy said. “And we cannot go on taking in as many foreigners when our immigration system is deadlocked because we receive too many people.”
National Front leader Marine Le Pen surprised political commentators by posting the party’s best-ever result in a presidential election with some 18 percent of ballots cast.
Her blend of left-wing economic policies and far-right rhetoric on immigration scored highly with working class voters and the young, who are angry about unemployment, globalisation and the European Union.
She has so far refused to back Sarkozy or his Socialist rival Francois Hollande, telling television channel France 2 on Monday that both the left and right had been responsible for more immigration and higher taxes over the past five years.
Meanwhile, Hollande told the Liberation newspaper on Tuesday that his party also needs to seek support from National Front voters.
The winner of the first-round said many of them were former Socialists who should find themselves again on the side of “progress, equality and change”.
He added that his campaign would fight “against privileges, against financial globalisation, and against Europe going bankrupt”.
Hollande described the vote for the National Front as a vote of “social anger” against immigration, but argued that he is the man to address the concerns of all French people.