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Sarkozy to declare presidential candidacy Wednesday evening

Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to announce that he will stand in this year’s presidential election on television news on Wednesday, his supporters told journalists Tuesday. His main opponent, Socialist François Hollande, shrugged off the news with a declaration that “we knew that already”.

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Although nobody doubts that he will stand for reelection, Sarkozy earlier planned to leave his official announcement until mid-March. But with Hollande way ahead in the opinion polls and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen gaining ground, it had become increasingly clear that he would bring the date forward and launch his official campaign soon.

The 8pm news bulletin on the privately owned TF1 channel will apparently be the occasion of the long-awaited announcement. The timing is apparently chosen to upstage Hollande’s second election rally, taking place in Rouen at the same time.

Sarkozy himself will hold his first rally in Marseille on Sunday but is due to make a public appearance that is bound to attract the cameras in the eastern city of Annecy on Thursday.

True to the literary bent of French election campaigns, Sarkozy will also publish a book but, according to centre daily Le Monde, it is not yet ready because, in an uncharacteristic display of discretion, the president finds it too personal.

Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet is to be the Sarkozy campaign spokesperson, supporters say.

“Everybody already knew he was a candidate,” was Hollande’s laconic reaction to the news Tuesday. “It doesn’t change a thing. It doesn’t make any difference to my campaign.”

Sarkozy last week indicated the main campaign issues he is likely to concentrate on:

  • Oppositon to granting non-EU nationals voting in local elections (as proposed by Hollande);
  • Opposition to gay marriage (supported by Hollande);
  • Opposition to euthanasia (supported by Hollande “under precise conditions”);
  • Restriction of the right to some unemployment benefits;
  • The “values” of “work, responsibility and authority”.

Former right-wing housing minister Christine Boutin on Tuesday declared herself sufficiently impressed by Sarkozy’s “support for marriage and life” to pull out of the presidential race.

Boutin, who heads the small Christian Democrat Party,  was at about one per cent in the polls and had so far failed to collect the 500 signatures of mayors she would have needed to stand.

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