Sarkozy in Bayonne
Sarkozy in Bayonne Reuters

French President Nicolas Sarkozy slipped back slightly in his bid to catch up to his main opponent Socialist candidate Francois Hollande on the first ballot. The French president's strategy is to win the first ballot and use it as momentum to narrow the more substantial lead for Hollande on the second ballot.

The way it looks, Sarkozy will at least make it into the next round. National Front leader Marine Le Pen has been forced to double down on the anti-immigration message of father Jean-Marie Le Pen, jettisoning the anti-EU and anti-globalization approach that she had tried to weave into the campaign. The centrist candidate Francois Bayrou is not doing as well as he did in 2007, but he is already being mentioned as a possible prime minister for Sarkozy, in a bid to woo his supporters on the second ballot.

The two most notable events this week were Sarkozy's campaign visit to Bayonne in France's Basque country and Hollande's proposal for a 75% income tax for those earning more than €1 million a year.

At Bayonne, Sarkozy was set upon by Basque nationalists, who hurled pieces of paper and eggs at him and for a brief period forced him to take refuge in a local tavern. Sarkozy and his campaign managers tried to turn the demonstration to his advantage by implicating the socialists. Campaign manager Guillaum Lambert wrote his Socialist counterpart ,Pierre Moscovic, asking him to make sure that there would be no repetition of the "anti-democratic practice" where Socialist activists tried to block Sarkozy's campaign.

Sarkozy declared that he was unafraid "We are in France and the French president will go to wherever he wishes in the French Republic. And if that doesn't please a minority of louts, then they will just have to put up with it.".

The Socialists replied that Sarkozy was trying to milk the incident for all its worth and should get a grip on himself.

Hollande is continuing with "soak the rich tactics" in the hope of limiting defections to the extreme left on the first ballot, this in order to checkmate the Sarkozy strategy. France is already a highly taxed country. and because there is a European Union, capital is free to move across the channel (where 300,000 French citizens already reside - to the point that London has become a campaign stop in French elections) or into Switzerland.

Some of the loudest denunciations of Hollande's proposal came from professional football players in France. Premier league owners and officials complained that top players would simply leave France in the event of such a draconian tax. Additionally. they contended that they were being paid for their entertainment value and had not attained their salary level by exploitation or robbery.

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