France election: Marine Le Pen refuses to endorse Nicolas Sarkozy or Francois Hollande
MARINE Le Pen today announced she is refusing to endorse either Nicolas Sarkozy or Francois Hollande in the French presidential run-off and will cast a blank protest ballot.
Miss Le Pen, who came in a strong third place in the first round of voting April 22, told her supporters at a big rally in Paris to "vote according to your conscience."
She assailed conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has borrowed some of Le Pen's rhetoric about immigrants and Muslims in his campaign, accusing him of impoverishing the French and giving up too much sovereignty to the European Union.
Mr Sarkozy has borrowed some of Le Pen's rhetoric about immigrants and Muslims in his campaign, and is hoping to win over the more than 6 million voters who supported her in the second round.
Miss Le Pen threw cold water on Mr Sarkozy's attempts to woo her voters.
"I will cast a blank ballot," she said. "Each one of you will make your choice," she said, while insisting that she herself could not endorse Sarkozy or Socialist challenger Francois Hollande.
Polls favour Mr Hollande. Observers say Miss Le Pen is distancing herself from Mr Sarkozy in hopes of becoming the face of the French opposition under a Socialist leadership.
Miss Le Pen urged her supporters to focus on forthcoming parliamentary elections, where she hopes her National Front party wins a presence in the National Assembly for the first time since 1986.
Across town, Mr Sarkozy is holding a campaign rally of his own Tuesday where he is expected to reach out to the far right.
In a radio interview on Tuesday morning, he was asked whether France has too many immigrants, and answered, "yes."
"Our system of integration doesn't work. Why? Because before we were able to integrate those who were received on our territory, others arrived. Having taken in too many people, we paralysed our system of integration," he said on RMC radio.
"I will never argue for zero immigration, but the reality is that when you invite more people than you can handle, you no longer integrate them," he said.
Meanwhile, masses of workers, leftists and union leaders around France are marking May Day with marches and rallies, in a mood of optimism ahead of Sunday's run-off. Marchers protested austerity measures pushed by EU leaders and by Sarkozy.