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Sarkozy: new polls show the president gaining on François Hollande in the presidential elections

The first round of the presidential elections is a month away but if it were held today, according to IFOP, only 71 percent would bother to vote.

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Nicolas Sarkozy greets party loyalists as he arrives Saturday for a campaign event in Lyon, eastern France. (LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

He’d been counted for dead in France’s coming presidential elections but the conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy is showing signs of life in the latest opinion poll, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Sarkozy scored 27.5 percent in a poll of 962 people concluded Saturday by the agency LH2, 4.5 percent higher than a comparable poll conducted at the start of the month, The Journal said.

The front-runner, the Socialist François Hollande, remains in first place but with an unchanged score at 30.

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In a head-to-head contest, the new poll still shows Sarkozy losing by 10 percentage points — but this is better than the 16-point margin he had earlier. According to the Journal, another poll conducted by IFOP had shown Sarkozy in the lead with 27.5 percent to 27 percent but this is considered an outlier among surveys.

France’s notoriously crowded political arena will see ten candidates compete in a first round of voting on April 22. The two most popular will then face off in a second round on May 6.*

According to a compilation of poling data by the French newspaper Le Monde, the far-right anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen stands at between 14 and 18 percent of voters' support; the centrist François Bayrou has between 11.5 percent and 15 percent and the former vocational training minister and Left Party founder Jean-Luc Mélanchon is at between 8 percent and 11 percent.

The vote is the tenth presidential election to be held by France’s Fifth Republic, a state created by the adoption of a new constitution in 1958.

But the IFOP poll showed that turnout is expected to be low, with only 71 percent expressing the intention to vote of the first round, according to The Journal.

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The intensity of campaigning has been apparent recent days, however. On March 8, Jacques Béhague, a regional councilor from Sarkozy’s governing party the UMP, wrote on his blog that Hollande’s supposed anti-rich views were comparable to the anti-Semitism of Adolf Hitler, according to Le Monde.

After an outcry, Béhague quickly posted an update in which he said the post in question had in fact been written in his name by a webmaster.

“I have spoken with my webmaster to whom I had entrusted the management of my blog,” he wrote. “He made a mistake without understanding the gravity and consequences it would have vis-à-vis my political friends and local Socialist and Radical Left Party elected officials who know that I am moderate in my remarks.”

* Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the second round of the elections will be held on May 22.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/france/120318/sarkozy-new-polls-show-the-president-gaining-francois-hol