Several weeks ago UDF candidate Francois Bayrou floated the idea of a debate before the first round of voting on April 22. While Socialist Segolene Royal expressed interest, UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy quickly dismissed the idea, saying that French election laws would would make such an event impossible.
Bayrou, who has seen his fortunes slide in recent weeks, has tried to circumvent the election laws by proposing an online debate between the four major candidates, posssibly organized by France's hyperactive blogosphere. Royal and Jean-Marie Le Pen accepted, but today Sarkozy again spoiled the fun.
"Either a debate with all 12 candidates or none at all," he said during a campaign stop in western France. "It is artificial to choose one candidate over the other and it even shows lack of respect towards the other candidates."
The BBC article that chonicles this also has some interesting internet figures with regard to the major candidates. Sarkozy gets 70,000 visitors a day, Le Pen 60,000, and Bayrou 50,000. Royal was not mentioned, but considering her website has been a centerpiece of the campaign, it is safe to say that she rivals if not surpasses Sarkozy's figure. Yet gathering such momentum has not been cheap. According to Le Figaro, both Sarkozy and Royal have independently pumped over US$1.3 million into their sites.
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