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Polls Put Sarkozy Ahead in French Presidential Election


New polls predict conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy will be the clear winner in Sunday's presidential election in France. With just three days to go, polling firms say he'll win at least 53 percent of the vote compared to 47 percent for Socialist candidate Segolene Royal. For VOA, Anita Elash reports from Paris.

After the first round of voting two weeks ago, polls showed that Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal were running neck and neck. That changed after their televised debate on Wednesday night.

Twenty million people watched as a combative Royal tried to unhinge Sarkozy, who is often seen as an authoritarian with a volatile temper. In the end, it was Royal who lost her cool, over questions about education for handicapped children.

Sarkzoy told her to calm down, and when she refused, he told her, "As president of the republic, you need to be calm."

Brice Teinturier, director of the polling firm TPS-Sofres, said that's when opinion tipped in Sarkozy's favor.

He told a press conference in Paris that viewers perceived Royal as pugnacious and aggressive, when she should have been showing herself as presidential and proving that she had a firm grasp on policy.

Throughout the campaign, critics have said that Royal lacked a clear vision of where she wanted to lead the country. Teinturier said her performance during Wednesday's debate confirmed that perception.

He said more than half of those polled afterward, including members of the Socialist Party, concluded that Sarkozy was more convincing, and had stronger policies and a clearer vision for France.

Friday is the last official day of campaigning. Sarkozy and Royal both held their final public meetings last night and were making the rounds of radio and TV talk show programs today.

Royal was on the offensive, arguing that Sarkozy would be a dangerous choice for France. Sarkozy said he had no desire to revisit the debate on Wednesday, but said he found Royal's approach that night outrageous.

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