Some 7 million middle-ground voters hold the key to deciding who will be France's next president as the election yesterday headed for a basic right-left run-off in less than two weeks.
No sooner had right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist rival Segolene Royal topped the first round of voting on Sunday than they set their sights on the supporters of centrist Francois Bayrou, whose votes are now up for grabs.
Bayrou, a 55-year-old former education minister, won nearly 19 percent in the first round of voting, taking third spot overall but was knocked out of the May 6 showdown.
After entering the race as a fringe candidate, Bayrou shot up in the polls as he campaigned on a platform that rejected the traditional left-right divide and called for a unity government made up of moderates from both camps.
"Bayrou has a key role even if he doesn't own those votes," said analyst Thierry Vedel of the CEVIPOF research institute, who said both Royal and Sarkozy would court him and his voters in the run-up to the decider.
A former member of Bayrou's Union for French Democracy (UDF) party who is backing Sarkozy held out the prospect yesterday of plum ministerial posts for UDF members.
"If Nicolas Sarkozy is the president of the republic, I would personally find it necessary, indispensable and fortuitous that UDF members be massively represented in the government," said Employment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo in a radio interview.
Bayrou was to hold a series of meetings with party members before an address planned for tomorrow on the way forward, his campaign manager said.
Bayrou's party has in the past aligned itself with Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement, but the candidate veered to the left during the campaign, attacking Sarkozy as a power-hungry politician unable to unite the nation.
Sarkozy's lieutenant Brice Hortefeux said the frontrunner would not entertain "backroom deals" with Bayrou, but added that "the door is not closed" to negotiations.
Socialist party leader Francois Hollande, who is also Royal's partner, rejected suggestion of a deal with Bayrou, saying it "would not be respectful" to the voters.
"I cannot imagine that his voters will now choose Nicolas Sarkozy," said Hollande in a radio interview.
‘HERO OF THE ERA’: President Tsai Ing-wen expressed deep sadness at Lee’s passing, and told the government to assist his family with all their needs Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) passed away at 7:24pm yesterday at Taipei Veterans General Hospital. He was 97 years old. The hospital stated the cause of death as septic shock and multiple organ failure. Lee had been hospitalized there since February, when he choked on a mouthful of milk at home. He was later diagnosed with pulmonary infiltrates and aspiration pneumonia. The hospital said that Lee had been treated with antibiotics, but that his health had not improved, as his advanced age and diabetes had inhibited his immune system and led to recurring infections. During his hospitalization, Lee underwent daily kidney dialysis, which removed
‘WEAK POSITIVE’: The man arrived in Taiwan in May and was quarantined for two weeks, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that he might be infected a long time ago The government is considering tightening mask-wearing rules again in light of a potential domestic COVID-19 infection, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday. The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases, six of which are imported. The other case involves a Belgian engineer who entered Taiwan on May 3 and remained in quarantine until May 17, said Chen, who heads the CECC. Although the source of infection has yet to be identified, the case could end the nation’s record of not having any domestic cases in the previous 110 days. The Belgian, in his 20s, is a technician
RECEIVING TREATMENT: President Tsai Ing-wen, Vice President William Lai and Premier Su Tseng-chang visited former president Lee Teng-hui yesterday morning Taipei Veterans General Hospital yesterday rebutted speculation that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had died a day earlier, saying that he was weak, but receiving treatment. The hospital said the 97-year-old Lee was not in good condition and needed ongoing care, adding that if there are any changes in his condition, it would make those public. The comments came after rumors emerged online on Tuesday that Lee had died after being hospitalized since early February. Soon after the unsubstantiated rumors emerged, reporters started flocking to the hospital seeking confirmation. Lee was admitted to Taipei Veterans General Hospital on Feb. 8 after choking while drinking
ROAD TO HISTORY: When Lee Teng-hui joined the KMT, the likelihood of a Taiwanese becoming ROC president, much less its first directly elected one, was hard to imagine Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who was born on Jan. 15, 1923, in the farming community of Sanshi Village, Taihoku Prefecture — now New Taipei City’s Sanzhi District (三芝) — during the Japanese colonial era, and rose to become mayor of Taipei and not only the Republic of China’s (ROC) first Taiwan-born president, but its first directly elected one as well. Educated in the Japanese educational system of the time, Lee, who spoke Japanese, Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), Mandarin and English, won a scholarship to Kyoto Imperial University, but his studies were interrupted by World War II. He earned a bachelor’s