Sunday 18 March 2018

Sarkozy pulls back points in poll despite Gaddafi fund allegations

Nicolas Sarkozy arrives in Chateaurenard before a campaign rally in Avignon, France, yesterday.
Nicolas Sarkozy arrives in Chateaurenard before a campaign rally in Avignon, France, yesterday.

John Lichfield in Paris

The ghost of the late Muammar Gaddafi continued to haunt the French election campaign yesterday as a poll showed President Nicolas Sarkozy gaining some ground on the socialist frontrunner, Francois Hollande.

Mr Sarkozy announced that he planned to sue an investigative website, which had published a document implying that the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli had funded his 2007 run for the presidency.

The website, Mediapart, said that it looked forward to revealing all its information on dealings between the late Libyan dictator and Mr Sarkozy during a future libel action.

Whether Mr Sarkozy will fight such a court case as president or ex-president will be decided on Sunday when France votes in the second round of the presidential election.

Recent opinion polls have shown Mr Hollande eight to 10 points ahead of the president. But an Ipsos poll published yesterday suggested that Mr Hollande's lead had slimmed to six points, putting him at 53pc to Mr Sarkozy's 47pc.

A narrowing of the gap in the final days was expected, however, and Ipsos pollsters said that everything still pointed to a Hollande victory on Sunday.

Mr Sarkozy has dismissed Mediapart's allegations of Libyan funding of his 2007 campaign as an act of "infamy" and a "manipulation" inspired by the Hollande campaign. However, confusion continued to surround the affair yesterday.

The senior Gaddafi-era official who was supposed to have received the incriminating document in December 2006, Bachir Saleh, is now living in France, apparently under government protection.


Mr Saleh, whose extradition is being sought by the new government in Tripoli, has denied that he ever saw the document or was ever involved in illegal campaign funding.

The French Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, yesterday rejected allegations that France was blocking Mr Saleh's extradition despite an Interpol arrest warrant. He said no such warrant existed. Mr Saleh's French lawyer later admitted, however, that his client was the subject of an Interpol "red" warrant, which had been published on the internet.

Meanwhile, Mr Sarkozy has been attempting to create a coherent philosophy for his abrupt swing to the right since the National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, scored 17.9pc in the first round of the election on April 22. He said there was a difference between "national feeling", which was "highly respectable", and "nationalism", which was "profoundly dangerous". "Love of country" should not be confused with "hatred of others," he said. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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