April 5 - Presenting his election manifesto, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged to balance France's budget and cut debt, while his Socialist rival Francois Hollande wants to renegotiate the European fiscal treaty if he is elected. Joanna Partridge reports.
The French presidential race is gaining momentum. And the main candidates have drawn the attention of the country's cartoonists. Socialist candidate Francois Hollande is depicted on the campaign trail in a daily newspaper. SOUNDBITE: Mathieu Sapin, Comic artist, saying (French): "When drawing, you tend to do a caricature because it's easy. That's fine but it's also important to be fair." Political comic books featuring current President Nicolas Sarkozy and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are also proving popular. With just over two weeks to go until the first round voting front-runners Sarkozy and Hollande have presented their election manifestos. Sarkozy has pledged to return France's public accounts to a surplus for the first time since 1974. And he wants to make a balanced budget a legal requirement. He calls this the "golden rule". SOUNDBITE: French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, saying (French): "France should have a balanced budget in 2016. A balanced budget and a golden rule for our citizens which I will have voted by summer 2012. This golden rule will include all of our European partners, whether on the right or left. There is only one party in Europe which is opposed to the golden rule, the French Socialist party." Sarkozy also said he saw French public debt peaking at over 89% of GDP in 2013 before falling. Hollande's economic plans include freezing fuel prices, boosting family welfare payments and renegotiating the European fiscal treaty to include provisions for jobs and growth. Political analysts have criticised both Sarkozy and Hollande for not having enough serious ideas on how to tackle the country's economic problems. That issue is seen as being most important to voters. The latest opinion polls suggest Sarkozy will win the first round of the election on April 22, but lose to Hollande in the second round two weeks later. Joanna Partridge, Reuters