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Eleanor Beardsley

President Nicolas Sarkozy is fighting desperately to hold on to his job with five days to go until the French presidential runoff against socialist rival Francois Hollande.

Both candidates have been trying to appeal to supporters of France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who came in third place in the first round of balloting held last month. Sarkozy, from the center-right, finished in second place, with Socialist candidate Francois Hollande taking first with nearly 29 percent of the vote.

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Let's begin with one of the most colorful European leaders, who is on the verge of losing his job. Nicolas Sarkozy has walked the world stage with his supermodel wife on his arm.

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The French go to the polls Sunday to choose among 10 candidates for president, and opinion surveys suggest the outcome will be a runoff between the two main figures, incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.

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An outsized figure on the world's stage is fighting to keep his job. Nicolas Sarkozy has made headlines pressing for intervention in Libya, travelling abroad with his supermodel second wife Carla Bruni, pressing to free up France's economy and struggling with Europe's debt crisis. Now, with an election approaching, the French president is trailing in opinion polls against his main rival, the socialist Francois Hollande.

Sarkozy's future depends on voters like those who spoke with NPR's Eleanor Beardsley.

On a recent evening, Les Enfants Terribles, a Paris restaurant that serves French cuisine cooked with halal meat, was brimming with customers.

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French voters go to the polls three weeks from today to cast ballots in the first round of their presidential election. Current president Nicolas Sarkozy is fighting for his life in a close race against a man who has never held national office, and is virtually unknown outside of France. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley sends this profile of socialist candidate Francois Hollande.

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The killings in France of three Jewish children, a rabbi and three soldiers of North African descent came during a presidential campaign in which immigration has dominated campaign rhetoric. The Toulouse gunman, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, was shot dead by police, but the tragedy has prompted national soul-searching.

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Mohamed Mehra, the self-confessed gunman who terrorized the French city of Toulouse, was killed yesterday in a shootout with French police. Authorities had hoped to bring him in alive, to find out what drove him to commit the attacks that left seven dead, including three children at a Jewish school. Now, France is left to wonder whether its intelligence services missed signs that could've prevented the tragedy. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley sends this report.

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And I'm Robert Siegel. The French newspaper Le Monde is calling it the interminable siege. Since early this morning, French police have been in a standoff with a man suspected of murdering seven people in the southern city of Toulouse, seven people in three different shootings. They were all killed in broad daylight and at point blank range. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is following the ongoing drama from Paris.

A provocative comment by an extreme right presidential candidate has started a debate that is dominating the French presidential campaign. France may be in the middle of an economic crisis, but politicians seem more interested in talking about halal meat and religious dietary rules.

It all began when National Front Party presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said that non-Muslims in Paris were unwittingly eating halal meat.

Far right politician Marine Le Pen is officially in the French presidential race after getting the required 500 mayors' signatures to appear on the ballot. She launched her campaign in a small town in the north of France, a poor region where many see globalization and immigration as France's biggest problems.

Paris has become a virtual ghost town as families vacate the city for two weeks of ski holiday, a time-honored ritual the French seem disinclined to give up. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

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