Tuesday 28 February 2017

Sarkozy unveils conservative reforms ahead of presidential poll

Henry Samuel in Paris

Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled a series of conservative social reforms yesterday, including plans to force the jobless to accept offers of work, just days before he is due to officially launch his re-election campaign.

In an interview designed to defend traditional values and galvanise the conservative electorate, the French president pledged to call a referendum on obliging jobseekers to accept a first job or lose unemployment benefit.

He spoke out against gay marriage and adoption, euthanasia and the right of foreigners to vote in local elections -- all measures backed by his Socialist rival, Francois Hollande, who he trails in the polls.

"Unlike Mr Hollande, I am not in favour of regularising the situation of undocumented foreigners, which would immediately create fresh demand," he added.

The language was designed to woo back supporters of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen whose votes helped him win in 2007.

Mr Sarkozy had been expected to delay launching his re-election bid until late February or early March, before the first of two presidential rounds on April 22 and May 6.

But the conservative incumbent is trying to regain the initiative, with reports yesterday suggesting he could throw down the gauntlet as early as next week.

"The date is approaching", he told French newspaper 'Le Figaro'. The proposals outlined by Mr Sarkozy included a referendum on whether the unemployed should be allowed to turn down a job or training and keep their benefits.

"After training, which will be compulsory, the unemployed person will be obliged to accept the first job offer," said.

Mr Sarkozy also said he would tighten up entry rules for foreigners marrying French citizens, with assessment on "housing and means".

Leaving his economic programme to one side, Mr Sarkozy underlined the importance of "values" in the interview, with the word appearing on the cover of the weekend supplement.

Unemployment

Dogged by unemployment at a 12-year high of nearly 10pc, polls suggest Mr Sarkozy will lose to Mr Hollande in the first round by 30pc to 26pc, and in the run-off by 60 to 40pc.

He stands an outside chance of being knocked out in round one by Ms Le Pen, who is polling between 16 and 20pc. He would receive a boost if she fails to find the 500 signatures from mayors or regional councillors she needs to endorse her candidacy.

Mr Sarkozy hopes the new policy proposals and a series of major rallies to mark his entry into the race will turn the tide. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

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