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French presidential race extols Europe

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French presidential race extols Europe


Nicolas Sarkozy announced barely more than two months before polling that he was running for re-election as France’s president. The core matter was the economy.

His main rival François Hollande declared what he was fighting for.

Hollande said: “I’m going to tell you who my adversary is. This adversary will never be a candidate, so will never be elected, and yet already governs us. This adversary is the world of finance.”

The contest revolved around Europe, with Sarkozy wearing the mantle of champion of the new budget discipline pact, alongside close ally German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Hollande, on the other hand, critical of the discipline treaty, said he would renegotiate it if he won the election.

Hollande said: “Our Europe can be the lever and the solution, unless it condemns itself to austerity, which is the direction the outgoing candidate has chosen, with the chancellor of Germany.”

Sarkozy played on the general desire to guarantee stability, evoking the dire policies of others.

Sarkozy asked: “Does anybody in France want to end up like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Iceland?”

For a time, an outcry alleging that halal meat prepared for Muslims was being forced on all the French demanded the incumbent deny the rumour, which had pandered to far right voters.

Then came a suspension of campaigning after a serial killer struck seven times in Toulouse, bringing a brief interlude of national unity.

When the candidates resumed the race, debate swirled around security and immigration.

After the first round of voting, Sarkozy took a populist shift to attract those who had supported Marine Le Pen’s National Front ideology.

Sarkozy said: “The border demonstrates that not all values are equal, that inside them and outside them are not the same, that between us and others there is a difference!”

Following the mass rallies of May Day came the television event billed as the make-or-break debate between the two candidates.

Their verbal sparring was closely timed. This is in accordance with a strictly-enforced national law that demands media coverage be equal, a rule also respected by euronews.

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