Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has closed the gap in voting intentions on his opposition Socialist rival Francois Hollande, just four months before they face off in an election, according to the first poll of the year.
The poll by the Ifop institute for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper forecast Mr Hollande would beat Mr Sarkozy 54 to 46 per cent in a head-to-head run-off – the closest margin between the two favourites in many months and two points closer than in the last Ifop poll in December. Mr Sarkozy’s supporters have begun privately boasting that the momentum in the race now favours the president, who has been slowly building support while his once dominant rival’s campaign got off to a lacklustre start.
The president is not expected to officially declare his intention to run for a second five-year term until March, but no one doubts he will and his weekly agenda has long resembled a campaign programme. Mr Hollande, a former Socialist leader who has never held ministerial office, enjoyed strong public support during his party’s primary season last year, but has made a slow start to the campaign proper. – telegraph