CENTRIST presidential candidate François Bayrou has said he will personally vote for François Hollande in Sunday’s second election round.
Although the unsuccessful candidate, who gained 9% and fourth place in the first round, has not given advice to his supporters, the announcement comes as a blow to Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been trailing Hollande in the polls.
The Front National’s Marine le Pen, placed third in the first round has said she will cast a blank vote. However MoDem leader Bayrou (who came third in 2007, with 19%), said: “I can’t cast a blank vote, that would be indecisive”.
Referring to Sarkozy’s “race to gain the far-right vote”, and his “violence” as his reasons for the choice, he insisted “I am not, and will not become, a man of the left”.
Sarkozy said on Europe 1 radio: “That’s his logic, but it’s hard to see any coherence in it,” adding: “He’s quite consistent since in 2007 he said no would under no circumstances vote for me. At the time he wasn’t talking about violence – I must have had other faults then, but it didn’t stop me winning.”
Fellow centrist Hervé Morin, president of Nouveau Centre, who supports Sarkozy, said he “regretted” Bayrou’s decision. He did not think the Socialist manifesto, with high public spending and extra taxes, was a good fit with Bayrou’s ideas, he said.
Hollande however, called it a choice which “honours he who makes it”, and claimed it was not a vote in favour of a political programme but was because he, Hollande, was more respectful of the “values of the Republic” than his rival.
Sarkozy has said he now thinks the election will be “a very close call”. The latest poll, from BVA, shows Hollande still in the lead but with the gap narrowing.
Hollande said to supporters in Toulouse yesterday: “As long as the French people have not voted, do not imagine victory is a sure thing. We have to go after it, snatch it away.”
However on RTL this morning he said: “If the French people must make a choice, they should do it clearly, massively, then give the one who is elected full powers to act, so he is not a constrained winner.”
Debate still continues as to who gave the best showing during Wednesday’s televised debate, with an LH2 survey now saying 45% found Hollande most convincing, and 41% Sarkozy; with the rest unsure.