April 23 - French President Nicolas Sarkozy hits back at critics and expresses confidence in the second round of the presidential race. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy back in campaign mode. After a second place finish in the country's first round of Presidential elections Sarkozy slammed critics who had expected a worse showing from the incumbent in the first round of presidential voting. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY SAYING: "Despite everything, despite bad faith, despite the lies, dirty tricks, we were not swept under the carpet as promised. We held our own much to the general surprise. And even better than that they said our campaign wasn't interesting. They had decided that. They predicted that the French were not going to vote. And the French did go to vote, more than 80 percent of them. This means without a doubt that there is a civic spirit among the French that there isn't with their observers." Sarkozy was narrowly beaten by his Socialist challenger Francois Hollande, who held a victory rally where he had sharp words for Sarkozy. (SOUNDBITE) (French) SOCIALIST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FRANCOIS HOLLANDE SAYING: "The outgoing candidate, he always succeeds in convincing himself, through others. It reassures him. He does it by himself. And yesterday, he tried to make out what was a failure, to be a success. He was happy. He is like that. He also thinks his term was a success. More than 73 percent of the French think the opposite. But he continues to think that he must go on." Sarkozy will face a tough fight in the May 6th runoff. Sarkozy will now have to court far right voters after a strong showing from far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Those who voted for her will be key for the runoff , but political analysts see Sarkozy's ability to woo them limited by his European commitments and his need to keep centrists on board. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters