And see the New York Times, "With Vote Days Away, Outlook for Sarkozy Dims," and the Wall Street Journal, "Sarkozy in Hot Seat as Election Nears" (via Google):
PARIS — After a sometimes testy campaign that laid bare the poor state of France's public finances and the ugly choices facing its next president, voters on Sunday will start the process of choosing who that person will be—with incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy on the ropes.And see Toronto's Globe and Mail, "French polls show socialist Hollande pulling away from Sarkozy."
The 57-year-old center-right president has been trailing Socialist Party candidate François Hollande for months, despite some gains in popularity after a string of shootings in Toulouse last month that terrorized France. If he loses, Mr. Sarkozy would be the 11th euro-zone leader swept away since the sovereign-debt crisis began.
A victory for Mr. Hollande, meanwhile, could portend strains with Germany and might rattle financial markets.
Mr. Sarkozy has been campaigning fiercely in the election's final days, toughening his rhetoric as he promises to cut immigration and overhaul unemployment benefits.
Mr. Hollande has largely stuck to his lower-key approach, though he has spoken of raising France's minimum wage in a bid to tip voters on Sunday.
Though both men are polling roughly even in the first round, surveys show Mr. Hollande potentially securing a landslide victory in the second round.
The backdrop for Mr. Sarkozy's struggles has been the ever-deepening euro crisis, which has left deep scars in the French economy. Unemployment is at a 13-year high of nearly 10% and public debt is nearly 90% of the country's annual output, up from 64% when Mr. Sarkozy took office in 2007.
The deterioration of France's public finances led U.S. ratings firm Standard & Poor's to strip the country of its triple-A rating in January. Many indicators point to a progressive loss of competitiveness by the French economy. The trade balance, which showed a surplus until 2001, booked its largest annual deficit last year, with the gap between what the country exports and imports hitting €70.4 billion ($92.4 billion).
The gloomy picture has enforced a certain austerity compared to the expansive campaign promises of past elections. Both candidates have pledged, without many specifics, to trim the country's budget deficit to avoid stoking the euro-zone sovereign-debt crisis. And both have vowed to seek outside help from the European Central Bank as growth-stimulating measures run short—something Germany is likely to resist.
"Mr. Sarkozy knows there's no room for more spending, and Mr. Hollande has put the little money available on a few highly symbolic proposals," says Gérard Grunberg, a professor at Sciences Po University in Paris.
Mr. Sarkozy is also suffering from the French public's deep fatigue with his hyperkinetic ways, despite his efforts to convince voters he is no longer the "bling-bling" president they elected in 2007. "I've changed," Mr. Sarkozy said in a recent interview with French magazine Paris Match.
BONUS: One more from The Astute Bloggers, "FRANCOISE HOLLANDE MAY BECOME THE FIRST MUSLIM ELECTED PRESIDENT OF A EUROPEAN NATION --- SO TO SPEAK. IOW: HE MIGHT AS WELL BE --- ALONG WITH THE REST OF THE EURO-LEFT."