Polls Show Conservative Headed For Victory In French Presidential Runoff

Friday, May 4th 2007, 7:06 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ Socialist Segolene Royal, seizing on President Bush's unpopularity in France, accused her rival in Sunday's presidential runoff of ``mimicking'' the American leader by feigning concern for people who are suffering.

She also said a victory by the tough-talking Nicolas Sarkozy would lead to more violence in France's troubled suburbs.

Sarkozy, a conservative who admits to being pro-American in a country widely suspicious of Washington, called Royal's comments ``extreme'' and suggested she was reacting to polls published Friday that showed him with a comfortable lead.

Royal shrugged off her low numbers, noting that some voters were still undecided. ``I am fighting to the finish to convince the French. We must ... make the French understand the choice before them.''

The candidates have radically different views on how to stimulate the lethargic economy, keep France prominent in world affairs and avoid repeats of the 2005 riots by minority youths in neglected housing projects.

Sarkozy's camp says Royal's ideas are fuzzy and that she does not have enough experience to become France's first woman president.

Royal has sought to portray Sarkozy as too unstable and too brutal to lead France, noting his harsh comments about delinquents when he was interior minister and his crackdowns on criminals and immigrants.

``The choice of Nicolas Sarkozy is a dangerous choice, I do not want France to be oriented toward a system of brutality,'' Royal said on RTL radio Friday morning.

She said she felt a ``responsibility to launch an alert about the risks of this candidacy and the violence and brutality that will be set of in the country. Everyone knows it but no one says it. It is a kind of taboo.''

In an interview with the daily Le Parisien published Friday, Royal said Sarkozy has ``the same neo-conservative ideology'' as Bush. ``He mimics the American president's technique of compassionate conservatism,'' which she described as pretending to care but failing to act when people are suffering.

Sarkozy gently mocked Royal for being glum Friday and called her Bush comments ``extreme.''

``She is not in a good mood this morning, it must be the polls,'' he said on Europe-1 radio. ``Since she feels the ground giving way beneath her feet, it's a classic phenomenon: She tenses up, she stiffens, she shows her true nature.''

Three polls indicated Sarkozy confirmed his lead after the candidates' only face-to-face debate in the race, a TV debate Wednesday.

A poll taken Thursday by CSA-Cisco showed Sarkozy with 53 percent to Royal's 47 percent. A survey Thursday by TNS-Sofres had Sarkozy's widening his lead to 54.5 percent and Royal at 45.5 percent. Another sounding, by Ipsos on Wednesday and Thursday, showed Sarkozy at 54 percent and Royal at 46 percent.

All three polls were conducted by telephone among pools of 1,000 to 1,400 people. The margin of error for all three would be about 3 percentage points.