French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday he would not do a deal with the extreme-right, but insisted those who vote for Marine Le Pen's National Front should not be demonized.
Both Sarkozy and his Socialist challenger Francois Hollande finished ahead of Le Pen in Sunday's first round vote in France's presidential race, but the extreme-right flag-bearer won almost 18 percent of the vote.
Now the frontrunners are campaigning ahead of their May 6 run-off, and Sarkozy is under pressure from some in his camp to offer a hand to Le Pen's supporters, in the hope of closing Hollande's first-round lead.
"We need to speak to the 18 percent who voted for Marine Le Pen," Sarkozy said, in an interview with France Info radio.
"I don't regard this 18 percent as people with extreme-right ideas. Mr Hollande said: 'They were wrong'. I don't think when the people speaks it is wrong," the 57-year-old incumbent President continued.
"But I don't want ministers from the National Front. I've never wanted that. The 18 percent who voted National Front don't belong to me, but it's my duty to address myself them," he said.
"What Mr Hollande has not understood is that we should speak to everybody. There will be no deal with the National Front, no ministers for them, but I have to take them into account and not feel I have to hold my nose."
Hollande won Sunday's vote with 28.63 percent to Sarkozy's 27.18, condemning Sarkozy to be the first sitting president since the Fifth Republic began in 1958 to lose a first round.
Now the pair have until May 6 to recruit enough voters to build a majority from those who abstained or voted for one of the eight defeated outsiders.
An opinion poll showed two-thirds of Sarkozy supporters want him to break with past policy and strike an alliance with the National Front.
For his part, Hollande is citing Le Pen's vote to fuel his push to add pro-growth clauses to Europe's budget discipline pact. He said he would at once start talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the need for a greater growth focus.
"I will renegotiate the EU treaty, Mrs Merkel knows that," he told TF1 television on Tuesday. "And if the French give me their backing, my first trip will be to confirm to her that the French have voted for a different kind of Europe."
"There is a cry of distress against a Europe that is not going in the right direction. It needs to be able to drive us towards the future rather than being all about austerity," Hollande said on Wednesday.
Source: EJP