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 far-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 right-wing incumbent 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.