Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy returns to frontline politics
With President François Hollande languishing at record lows in the polls, former president Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that he plans to return to frontline politics, which almost certainly means a view to running for the presidency in 2017. Gideon Rachman is joined by Hugh Carnegy, Paris bureau chief, and Tony Barber to discuss his prospects.

François Hollande has had to get used to dismal opinion polls, but the latest one is about as bad as it gets for France’s struggling Socialist president.

A survey by OpinionWay for Le Figaro published on Tuesday evening shows Mr Hollande would be easily knocked out of the presidential race by Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, if a re-run of the May 2012 election were held today.

Then, Mr Hollande beat both incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Ms Le Pen in the first round of the election and went on to oust his centre-right rival from the Elysée Palace in the decisive second round. Two years later, after an often chaotic presidency marked by big tax increases, rising unemployment and faltering growth, Mr Hollande would muster a mere 19 per cent of first round votes, according to the poll. Read more >>

Can President Hollande turn things around?

This week the French government announced a multi-billion euro programme of investment, designed to boost the economy and President Hollande’s flagging poll ratings. In this podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Hugh Carnegy, Paris bureau chief and Ben Hall, former Paris correspondent, to discuss a turbulent few weeks in which Mr Hollande has had to fire a cabinet member for dissent, the French government has clashed repeatedly with the European Commission in Brussels and Nicolas Sarkozy has made a flamboyant re-entry into French politics.

 Read more >>

John Aglionby

Welcome to our rolling coverage of the reaction to elections in France and Greece on a big day for Europe.

By Tom Burgis, John Aglionby and Esther Bintliff in London with contributions from FT correspondents around the world. All times are London time.

This post should update automatically every few minutes, although it might take longer on mobile devices.

16.52 That’s the lot of the live blog today. See FT.com for more news and analysis through the night.

We’ll leave you with a quick summary and some reading. Today:

  • Markets reacted warily at first to the French and Greece results, although equities and bonds recovered through the day. The euro stayed weaker though
  • Angela Merkel promised François Hollande a warm welcome in Berlin but said the eurozone’s fiscal pact was not up for re-negotiation. She also urged Greece to stick to the cuts programme agreed with lenders
  • Greece’s political leaders wrangled over a possible coalition government after voters administered a thumping to the two biggest parties, leading to predictions of a fresh election and a potential move to tinker with the terms of the country’s €174bn bail-out
  • Spain reversed course and said it plans to pump public cash into troubled lender Bankia
  • Leftists from Dublin to Stockholm hailed the victory of a Socialist in France, with many seeking to use Hollande’s triumph to push for more pro-growth policies to temper European austerity

 Read more >>

Welcome to our rolling coverage of the day’s developments in the eurozone.

Today the live blog comes from Paris, as France digests a surge of far right support in the presidential election, but we’ll also be updating you on news from around Europe. All times Paris time.

By Tom Burgis in Paris and Esther Bintliff in London with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.

17.27 That’s about it for our live coverage from Paris today. A quick round-up of the day’s developments.

We leave you with news of a rare moment of accountability in said crisis:

Geir Haarde, the former prime minister of Iceland, has been found guilty of one count of negligence in the run-up to the country’s 2008 banking crash but will receive no punishment. The FT’s Michael Stothard reports from Stockholm:

Geir Haarde, the former prime minister of Iceland, has been found guilty of one count of negligence in the run-up to the country’s 2008 banking crash but will receive no punishment.

A special court of impeachment designed to deal with criminal charges against Icelandic government ministers found Mr Haarde guilty of failing to hold dedicated cabinet meetings ahead of the crisis.

But the court cleared him of three more significant charges that could have carried a sentence of up to two years in jail.

The full story is hereÀ la prochaine… Read more >>

Gideon Rachman

France's Socialist Party candidate François Hollande greets supporters after a campaign speech  in Bordeaux. Getty Images

France's Socialist Party candidate François Hollande greets supporters after a campaign speech in Bordeaux. Getty Images

For a man who stands on the brink of the French presidency, François Hollande is remarkably low-key, as I discovered tonight at his last campaign rally before the first round of voting on Sunday.

Over the weekend President Sarkozy staged a big campaign rally in the Place de la Concorde and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate, spoke in Marseilles before a crowd estimated at around 100,000. By contrast, tonight Hollande spoke at a suburban park in Bordeaux, before a crowd of just a few thousand. His reception was warm, but there was no sense of fervour. And yet the opinion polls suggest that Hollande will win the decisive second round on May 6th – beating Sarkozy by a wide margin. Read more >>

Esther Bintliff

CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images

CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images

If the latest polls are to be believed, Nicolas Sarkozy will be a one-term wonder. A president who has broken with convention throughout his career will likely do so once again: only one other president of the fifth republic - Valéry Giscard d’Estaing – has tried and failed to be re-elected for a second term.

The man likely to topple Sarkozy is an affable creature of the French elite. He’s had a long career traversing the backrooms of politics, yet never held ministerial office. So who is François Hollande? Read more >>