A French centrist leader and one-time ally of President Nicolas Sarkozy says he will vote against him in the upcoming run-off presidential election.
Francois Bayrou, the leader of the centrist Democratic Movement and once a colleague of Sarkozy in a right-wing cabinet, said in Paris on Thursday that he would vote for the president’s archrival Socialist hopeful Francis Hollande in the May 6 run-off.
"I, personally, will vote for Francois Hollande," Bayrou said in a brief statement and complained that Sarkozy had gone too far to the right.
Hollande and Sarkozy respectively secured 28.4 and 25.5 percent of the ballots in the first round of the 2012 presidential election that took place on April 22, both falling short of an absolute majority, which necessitated the second round.
Bayrou criticized Sarkozy for wooing far-right voters to pick up the nearly 18 percent of the vote that had gone to far-right Front National candidate Marine Le Pen in the first round.
"After a good result in the first round, Nicolas Sarkozy set off in chase of an extreme right within which we do not recognize our values and in which our deepest and most precious beliefs are battered and denied," he said.
The politician, who himself was eliminated in the first round, said he was "not making any voting recommendation" for the nine percent of the electorate, who had voted for him, but asserted that he had been shocked by Sarkozy's stance on immigration.
Sarkozy has taken a tough line on immigration and national identity in a drive to catch up with Hollande.
Bayrou's declaration is a significant blow to Sarkozy at a time when opinion polls consistently show that the president will lose the run-off.