Sarkozy banks on mass rally to lift flagging election hopes | Pakistan Today

Sarkozy banks on mass rally to lift flagging election hopes

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday chartered TGV high-speed trains and fleets of buses to ferry in supporters from across France for a mass rally aimed at boosting his flagging re-electon bid. Up to 60,000 people were expected at the rally in an exhibition hall at Villepinte north of Paris, which the president hopes will turn the tide against his front-running Socialist rival with just over a month to go before election day. “Sarkozy is the only one who can save France from going the way of Greece or Italy,” two countries hard hit by the debt crisis sweeping Europe, said 46-year-old transport worker Thierry Salic as he walked into the meeting.
Salic, carrying the French tricolour flag, had come from the southern city of Salon-en-Provence in one of the specially hired TGV trains. Inside the cavernous hall a succession of heavyweights from Sarkozy’s UMP party took turns at warming up the cheering crowds who waved a sea of red, blue and white flags. French actor Gerard Depardieu added some star power to the audience who hoped that the polls might somehow be proved wrong and Socialist Francois Hollande will lose in the two-round vote in April and May. The rally comes just days after after the 56-year-old Sarkozy said he would quit politics for good if not re-elected in the vote on April 22 and May 6.
Sarkozy has failed to narrow the gap with Hollande — who has enjoyed a clear opinion poll lead for five months — and this week pulled out all the stops to revamp what many critics say has been a lacklustre campaign. In a marathon three-hour television interview on Tuesday, he declared that there were too many immigrants in France and that the country’s attempts to integrate foreign arrivals into its culture and society had become paralysed. That statement came as French Jewish and Muslim leaders united to complain they were being used as pawns in a presidential election increasingly dominated by bitter disputes over national identity and ritual slaughter. Sarkozy picked up on a debate about halal meat — initially launched by the anti-immigrant National Front leader Marine Le Pen — and declared that its spread in butchers’ shops was a major problem for the French.

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