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French presidential contenders woo Front National vote

French presidential contenders woo Front National vote
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The socialist challenger in the French presidential election has accused his rival Nicolas Sarkozy of being a candidate for unemployment.

François Hollande was visiting the north-eastern Picardy region where the jobless rate is high, and where he won the first round comfortably.

Employment is one of his main themes, with plans to ease employers’ social charges as an incentive to take young people on while keeping older workers on their books, and create 150,000 jobs for the least qualified.

“I’ve understood the messages from the election first round. Firstly a message of rejection of the incumbent candidate, but also a message of anger and sometimes of suffering. So I must listen and transform these indications given by the voters,” said François Hollande.

The conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy demanded to know what Hollande’s immigration policy would be, as he continued reaching out to the 6.4 million people who voted for Marine Le Pen, and whose backing he needs.

The Front National’s anti-immigration, anti-EU, anti-establishment stance once made it a political outlaw for the centre-right: not now.

“From the moment that Marine le Pen is authorised to be a candidate, and it’s normal, the vote for her is not a vote against the Republic as it is happening within the Republic,” Nicolas Sarkozy told a party rally south-west of Paris.

An opinion poll suggests most Sarkozy and Le Pen supporters want an accord between their two parties before June’s parliamentary elections.

Marine Le Pen has declined to back either Sarkozy or Hollande in the presidential run-off.