Hollande endures ’ghost’ jibes as opposition holds fresh debate

Update: November, 03/2016 - 11:00

PARIS — As Francois Hollande kept France guessing over whether he will seek re-election as president, the resurgent opposition was set to return to the debate stage today.

A description by The New York Times of Hollande as the "living dead" provided fodder for his gleeful critics this week.

The paper was alluding to polls showing the Socialist being annihilated if he runs, with whoever wins the centre-right nomination expected to charge on to the presidency in May.

Seven conservative hopefuls including ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and former premier Alain Juppe are to make their cases to the voters for a second time today ahead of their November primary.

The brash Sarkozy, 61, is waging an uphill fight for a return to the Elysee Palace he occupied from 2007 to 2012, lagging far behind the mild-mannered Juppe, 71.

The latest poll gave Juppe 37 percent to Sarkozy’s 31 percent, with the other five centre-right candidates bringing up the rear less than three weeks from the first round of the primary on November 20.

Today’s debate is the second of four, with a final one-on-one debate likely to pit Sarkozy against Juppe on November 24, three days before the run-off for the nomination.

Juppe is tipped to win the centre-right mantle and then take on -- and defeat -- far-right leader Marine Le Pen after a first round of the presidential poll on April 23 that is expected to winnow out the centre-left candidate, whether it is 62-year-old Hollande or another.

Hollande, France’s most unpopular president in 60 years, has yet to announce whether he plans to stand for re-election, saving the decision until early December while his support base melts away. — AFP