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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Free condoms to woo French voters
UMP activists distribute leaflets with flip-flops on a beach in Arcachon, south-western France
Flip-flops and condoms have proved to be an instant hit, the party says
France's ruling conservative party has come up with a novel way of trying to woo voters - by handing out condoms and flip-flops with a party logo.

UMP party activists have been touring some 40 beaches across the country to shore up support for the party leader, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The UMP says it wants to engage with groups that do not traditionally associate with the party.

The beach campaign is being staged ahead of next year's presidential poll.

UMP activists have been handing out leaflets, T-shirts and headrests to sunbathers on France's beaches for several weeks now.

They say condoms with the party's logo and flip-flops that leave a UMP footprint have proved to be an instant hit with sunbathers.

Nicholas Sarkozy and his wife Cecilia
Mr Sarkozy's book discusses his marriage as well as his politics

"The idea is to address a population that is not used to being in touch with politics," Franck Louvrier, the UMP's head of communications, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

"We are looking to open an interactive dialogue. And sometimes, it is through a fashion accessory that we can start discussions about politics."

The PR campaign ends on 1 September - seven months before the presidential election in May.

Although the UMP will not officially select its candidate until January, Mr Sarkozy - the current French interior minister - is seen as a hot favourite to get the party's nomination.

Mr Sarkozy has essentially begun his campaign with a recent book of political philosophy that has become a summer hit.


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