Tonight almost all of this year's candidates held their final campaign rallies in anticipation of Sunday's first round ballot. Voting actually begins as early as Saturday for overseas territorties, during which time a polling blackout will begin.
Royal, whose gaffes on trips abroad during the campaign cost her candidacy some momentum, sought to inject some gravitas into her bid Thursday by bringing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to speak at a rally in southern Toulouse. Spain's Socialist premier — the first major international leader to publicly take sides in the French election this year — was effusive in his support of Royal.
"Segolene incarnates personal impetuousness, a fresh character and optimism," Zapatero told an estimated 15,000 banner-waving supporters at the rally. "Segolene incarnates a project of transformation, democratization and modernization" he said.
Sarkozy's rally Thursday in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille also attracted thousands of enthusiastic supporters. His team also targeted undecided voters with a new promotional blitz, in which more than 20,000 supporters were handing out fliers and other freebies. It was hosting a ski race in the Alps, and games of petanque — French bowling — in Paris.
Is it just me or is Zapatero breaching internal poitics more blatantly than the US in Iraq? Anyway, Sarkozy's website has now transformed into "72 heures pour ganger!" (72 hours to win) mode, with a welcome video by Sarkozy and a blog "Dimanche Tout Devient Possible" (Sunday Everything is Possible", a play off his campaign slogan "Ensemble Tout Devient Possible." Roughly 30% of the French are still undecided, so any last effort should count.
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