Sarkozy and Royal look to centre ground in presidential duel | world | Hindustan Times
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Sarkozy and Royal look to centre ground in presidential duel

world Updated: Apr 24, 2007 09:46 IST
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French presidential election rivals Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal turned their sights to the crucial centre ground on Monday as they launched themselves into the final two weeks of campaigning.

The right and left wing flag bearers -- who romped home ahead of the pack in yesterday's multi-candidate first round -- set themselves a gruelling schedule of rallies and television appearances in the coming days in order to build support for the May 6 decider.

Right winger Sarkozy, 52, was to address a meeting in the eastern city of Dijon today, while the socialist Royal, 53, was due in the southern town of Valence.

The two camps also held discussions over a television debate on May 2, which should be the high-point of the second round campaign.

Sarkozy won 31.18 per cent of yesterday's vote ahead of Royal on 25.97 per cent, according to final official figures. Combined with a near record turn-out of 83.77 per cent, the result was hailed as a sign of the public's eagerness for a clear left-right presidential choice.

Sarkozy, leader of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), is the favourite, with three polls today giving him a lead of between four and eight percentage points.

Whoever wins will succeed 74 year-old Jacques Chirac -- president since 1995 -- at the end of an election that has become the focus of impassioned debate over the nation's future direction.

Sarkozy has pledged a "clean break" from the past political consensus and his campaign has centered around right-wing themes such as the work ethic, national identity and economic liberalisation.