Show­down of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates

The Myanmar Times - - World -

FRANCE’S ex-pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy and for­mer prime min­is­ter Alain Juppe will come face to face to­day for a tele­vised de­bate ahead of a Novem­ber pri­mary widely seen as the main bat­tle for the pres­i­dency.

The stakes could not be higher, as poll­sters say who­ever wins the nom­i­na­tion for the cen­tre-right Repub­li­cans party on Novem­ber 27 is likely to take on – and de­feat – far-right leader Ma­rine Le Pen in the 2017 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The brash Mr Sarkozy, 61, is wag­ing an up­hill fight for a re­turn to the of­fice he held from 2007 to 2012, lag­ging far be­hind his mild-man­nered 71-year-old ri­val in voter sur­veys.

Polls show Mr Juppe with a lead of be­tween 8 and 14 per­cent­age points over Mr Sarkozy for the first round of the pri­mary on Novem­ber 20, with five other can­di­dates trail­ing be­hind.

All seven will take part in the de­bate to­day, the first of four, in­clud­ing one on Novem­ber 24, three days be­fore the run-off for the nom­i­na­tion.

Mean­while the left is flail­ing with­out a vi­able can­di­date for the pres­i­den­tial vote in April and May, with the deeply un­pop­u­lar Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande yet to de­cide whether to stand for re-elec­tion.

Ms Le Pen of the Na­tional Front, rid­ing high in the polls thanks to a surge of anti-mi­grant sen­ti­ment, is ex­pected to place sec­ond or even win the first round on April 23.

With no left-wing fig­ure likely to make it to the May 7 sec­ond round, the run-off is ex­pected to pit Ms Le Pen against ei­ther Mr Juppe or Mr Sarkozy, with the cen­tre-right can­di­date fore­cast to pre­vail.

Mr Sarkozy is strug­gling for trac­tion and has been ac­cused of bor­row­ing Ms Le Pen’s themes, tap­ping into fears about im­mi­gra­tion and rad­i­cal Is­lam fol­low­ing a string of ji­hadist at­tacks in France in the past two years, cou­pled with the Europe-wide mi­grant cri­sis.

Mr Juppe, cur­rently France’s most pop­u­lar politi­cian, is tak­ing the op­po­site tack, po­si­tion­ing him­self as a unifier and a mod­er­ate, no­tably on im­mi­gra­tion. –

Photo: AFP

Alain Juppe faces Ni­co­las Sarkozy in tele­vised de­bate.

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