President Nicolas Sarkozy has overtaken Socialist presidential challenger Francois Hollande for the first time in an opinion poll, with news outlets crediting his efforts to appeal to right-wing French voters.
The Ifop poll forecast that Sarkozy — who has trailed Hollande for months — had regained enough support from the hard right to seize a narrow lead in voting intentions in the election first round on April 22, the Independent wrote.
However, Sarkozy's taste of victory was short-lived, according to the paper, as a TNS-Sofres survey showed Hollande in fact widening his lead over Sarkozy to four points in the first-round election.
And the results of both polls suggested Hollande would win the two-candidate second round on May 6 by a landslide.
The French president has improved his standing after threatening at a rally near Paris on Sunday to erect unilateral barriers to trade and immigration unless the EU took a tougher stand on those issues.
According to The New York Times, Sarkozy struck a nationalist tone in his speech, vowing tougher immigration controls at the borders. He also promised to invest public money to boost French industry with promised European companies would be given preference for government contracts.
The Times quoted Bruno Cautrès, a public opinion specialist at the Center for Political Research at the Institut d’Études Politiques, or Sciences Po, as saying: "I think it is now quite plausible that Nicolas Sarkozy will win the first round. I think this is a portentous moment. In means that, if he can maintain this momentum, a second round might be a very close race."
NBC quoted Ifop analyst Frederic Daby as saying, "The game is changing. It's getting tighter," adding that Sarkozy's challenge was to keep adding far-right support without alienating centrists.
Meanwhile, earlier Tuesday, far-right French political leader Marine Le Pen, ranked third in polls, said she had secured the 500 official sponsors needed to enter the presidential contest.
A failure by Le Pen to gather enough signatures could have caused an upset in the race, given she has 16 percent of support.