France

Presidential hopeful Hollande woos French farmers at Agriculture show

Reuters/Fred Dufour/Pool

Socialist candidate François Hollande visited the annual Agriculture Fair in Paris on Tuesday, an obligatory stop for any would-be French president.

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Agricultural workers, either retired or still active, represent about eight per cent of the French electorate, and Hollande set aside ten hours to try to woo them as they displayed their wares.

He observed cows being milked, brushed them down and made admiring comments when shown Valentine, the 7 year old star among the cattle.

He even scrapped his diet for the cameras, tucking in to grilled steak and charcuterie.

Hollande is member of parliament for a constituency in Corrèze, one of France’s most rural regions, so he is relatively comfortable in the surroundings of the Salon, if less so than former president Jacques Chirac, who represented a nearby constituency and was in his element when examining livestock and chatting to farmers.

But France’s agricultural workers traditionally vote massively to the right.

A new survey shows that 35 per cent of them intend to vote for Sarkozy in the first round of this year’s presidential elections, exactly the same figure as in 2007, while only 11 say they would back Hollande.

But researchers note significant support among rural voters for the far-right National Front. In 2002, 22 per cent of them cast their ballot for Front National candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen.

And centre-right candidate François Bayrou is popular in the countryside. He runs the family farm in south western France which he inherited from his father, and makes much of his country roots.
 

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