Interviewed yesterday evening live on the TF1 television channel, Sarkozy did however say that he wanted to ''listen to and understand those voting for the National Front (FN). I am not here to lecture on morality like the conformist gauche.
After four years in a crisis, I am not surprised by the results achieved by Marine Le Pen.'' He went on to say that he did not consider it shameful for those ''who voted for a candidate whose point of view I do not share (...) I don't understand how one can censure the votes of people who are suffering''. Pushed into a corner by that 17.9% raked in last Sunday by the National Front, which could prove decisive in the second round, Sarkozy has been forced to court far-right voters but has not opened up to Marine Le Pen. He will not be making any agreement with her, not now nor in the legislative elections in June. The clarification came on the day after he had said that Marine Le Pen was ''compatible'' with the republic. In an interview on the France Info radio station, he said that ''there will not be any agreement with the National Front nor the ministers within its ranks. I have never wanted this.'' However, he rushed to add, ''that 18% of voters casting their ballots for Marine Le Pen should not be demonised''. In his opinion, it may prove a gold mine of useful votes. ''They do not belong to Marine Le Pen and it is my duty to address them. I do not see them as individuals with extremist ideas. There are no good and bad votes. The French made their choice and must once again do so.'' Sarkozy also lashed out at Hollande, noting that the latter ''claims that Marine Le Pen's voters are wrong. I instead believe that, when people express themselves, they are not wrong.'' Within the UMP itself some are wondering how long the dam separating the two parties on the right will hold. Some think that the borderline between the UMP and the FN has never been so fragile - especially since Sarkozy's direction has become clear, and is headed straight for the right. Immigration and the votes of non-EU nationals have become his daily bread.
However, he is assuring his followers that he will never form an alliance with Marine Le Pen. The Socialist candidate is taking advantage of the situation, speaking out against the ''numerous ambiguities'' within Sarkozy's party - especially in view of the parliamentary elections (June 10-17), in which the National Front hopes to achieve results similar to those seen in the presidential ones.(ANSAmed).