Sarkozy pledges to 'save European way of life'
Six weeks ahead of elections, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking to appeal to far right voters by vowing to crack down on immigration to France.
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Yet studies and statistics show that immigration to France has remained steady at 180,000 to 200,000 new immigrants a year, similar to figures in 2007. Under Sarkozy, the rapid rise in French immigration during the 1980s and 1990s leveled out, but did not lessen. He also brought an end to the impression that France is an easy migration destination paved with golden streets.Skip to next paragraph
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In 2010, without much comment, the ministry for national identity was folded into the immigration and integration office after an effort by the ruling party to spark a debate on "national identity" generated little public enthusiasm.
A pastor at a Protestant church in Paris who has seen a rise in African members said yesterday ahead of the Sarkozy rally, “Immigrants come here with dreams. But those are quickly lost. Life here is hard. There are few jobs. Migrants find themselves in the same kind of poverty they thought they were escaping, and sometimes it is worse. That’s one reason they come to us."
Lackluster response in the polls
Sarkozy’s decision to play the right-wing or nationalist card is widely perceived as a vote-generating tactic ahead of the election. He is running behind Mr. Hollande, but ahead of Le Pen. As a result, he is attacking the left, saying Hollande is a lightweight who doesn’t love France, and appealing to the right, claiming his ruling party is the party of Joan of Arc, the symbol of the National Front.
Meanwhile, Le Pen is mercilessly attacking, laughing at, and scorning the president in a tone and language that the French president is unaccustomed to in the French mainstream media.
In the last two weeks, as most of Europe worried about the euro crisis and unemployment, the biggest subject in French media was "halal" meat. Le Pen said that Paris shops carried only meat ritually slaughtered for Muslims. This was untrue, and Sarkozy at first duly corrected it, stating that only 2.5 percent of the bovine fruits were halal. But as the issue got traction, Sarkozy suddenly called for laws governing all meat to be butchered transparently. Then his aides blew the issue into a tempest by saying that should Hollande be elected, all local municipalities in France would force schoolchildren to eat halal meat.
Still, for all his vote-garnering messages, Sarkozy is not appreciably rising in the polls, at least not yet. He is expected to defeat Le Pen in round one of the elections, but in the second round on May 5, polls show Sarkozy 10 to 11 points behind Hollande.
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