PARIS (Reuters) – Behind on points, conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s last best hopes of re-election are landing a knockout punch in the sole television debate or an eleventh-hour alliance with a popular centrist.
No president in French history has come back to win after trailing as far behind his opponent in the opinion polls as Sarkozy does now to Socialist challenger Francois Hollande, political scientist Dominique Reynie said.
But veteran analysts are not writing him off just yet.
“It’s hard to see what could reverse the trend, but there are a few elements,” said Pascal Perrineau, director of the Centre for the Study of French Political Life (CEVIPOF) at the Sciences-Po school in Paris, citing lingering doubts among voters about whether Hollande has the stature and the national security credentials to be president.
Surveys show the conservative head of state is battling deep personal unpopularity on top of the handicaps of incumbency in an economic crisis that has seen off the leaders of 14 of the European Union’s 27 countries in the last three years.
“This is at least as much a referendum on Nicolas Sarkozy as a vote in confidence in Francois Hollande,” said Reynie, director of the Foundation for Political Innovation.