A Channel 4 report:
The latest opinion polls suggest Sarkozy's 10% deficit in the first round of voting has been eliminated and he's now either neck-and-neck at 30% with the Socialist candidate or even marginally in front. The Socialist François Hollande has a 6% lead in the second round, however.
The election is a vital one for the European Left. They are out of power in every major EU state and France represents their best hope for a comeback. GMB union official Ben Fox at the New Statesman examines the importance of toppling Sarkozy for him and his comrades:
"From the high point in the late 90s when Blair, Schroeder, Prodi and Jospin set the terms of debate in European politics, the centre-left has now been reduced to impotence in opposition, in power in a mere handful of countries….
Although social democrats in Denmark and Slovakia have taken power in the past few months, the defeat of the Zapatero government in Spain meant that the Prime Ministers of the five biggest EU countries – Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain – are all conservative….
The fight-back needs to start and the French elections will offer a clear indication of whether the European left is bouncing back or in possibly terminal decline. The stakes are high. If Hollande and the Parti Socialiste cannot win when the political odds are stacked in their favour, then the prospects for their sister-parties here and elsewhere will look increasingly bleak."