Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In a Tight French Election, Sarkozy Is Suddenly Everywhere

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In a Tight French Election, Sarkozy Is Suddenly Everywhere

Article excerpt

Ahead of April polls, It's all Sarkozy all the time as the embattled president uses his Elysee Palace pulpit to salute national triumph at the Oscars and exhibit authority on weightier matters of office.

There seem now to be no electronic or digital news pulses emerging out of France that do not involve Nicolas Sarkozy. It's election season and the French leader is gaining in the polls in a tight race, so it is suddenly all Mr. Sarkozy, all the time.

Today, Sarkozy said it is unclear if injured French journalist Edith Bouvier has escaped from the city of Homs in Syria, having earlier given better news. Yesterday, Mr. Sarkozy said he would resubmit a controversial bill making it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide, brushing aside a court ruling that an earlier version was unconstitutional. On Feb. 27, Sarkozy tied himself to France's Hollywood Oscar sweep, praising "The Artist" and French arts in general. He made further headlines this week - and it's only Wednesday -- when his campaign quietly dropped plans to have Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel stump for him. The unusual "Merkozy" team is off for elections.

This quick list doesn't include Elysee Palace news on troops in Afghanistan, peace in Syria, Iranian nuclear ambitions, the euro crisis, and all manner of high-level presidential business that Sarkozy's main rival, Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande, cannot match.

This week, it seems clear that French elections are shaping into a two-man race. That brought its own news: Polls show Sarkozy picking up four points on Mr. Hollande. The two are now virtually tied in first round French election polls, although Hollande holds an 11-point lead in the all-important second round, scheduled for May 5.

Sarkozy's message is that he is the man with leaderly gravitas who will protect the French in a time of uncertainty and crisis. Hollande has sought to capitalize on Sarkozy's unpopularity and portray himself as a "normal" guy, steady and reliable.

In an Op-Ed for The New York Times, leading Paris intellectual Dominique Moisi argues that at this point in the campaign, "the emotional rejection by a majority of the French of a man they apparently do not want to see on their television screens for another five years still appears to prevail over the clear lack of enthusiasm for his main opponent, the Socialist Francois Hollande. …

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