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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 May 2007, 03:55 GMT 04:55 UK
France rivals end electoral push
Segolene Royal meeting voters in Brittany
Both candidates pressed the flesh on the last day of campaigning
The two candidates vying to become the next president of France have traded barbs on the final day of campaigning ahead of Sunday's run-off election.

Socialist Segolene Royal told a radio interviewer that electing rival Nicolas Sarkozy could spark riots and violence.

Mr Sarkozy reacted angrily, accusing Ms Royal of breaking "elementary rules of democracy" and suggesting she must have been unnerved by poor poll ratings.

Final polls suggested Mr Sarkozy held a firm lead as campaigning wound down.

Newspaper polls on Friday, the last published before a ban on new polls during the electoral period, suggested Ms Royal had failed to close the gap on her rival.

There is... still hope for those who think that it is all still to play for
Segolene Royal
Socialist candidate
Ms Royal visited the western region of Brittany on Friday for final campaign rallies, while Mr Sarkozy laid a wreath at a war memorial in the Alpine region.

The campaigns ended on Friday as voting in some overseas French regions takes place on Saturday.

'Time for decisions'

Speaking in Brittany, Ms Royal played down the significance of the opinion polls, saying they could not be trusted.

"There is therefore still hope for those you think that it is all still to play for," she said.

In a radio interview earlier on Friday, she warned against electing Mr Sarkozy, describing him as a "dangerous choice".

I feel she's just ending with violence, a certain feverishness. France deserves something else
Nicolas Sarkozy
UMP candidate
"It is my responsibility today to alert people to the risk of [his] candidature with regards to the violence and brutality that would be unleashed in the country," she said.

Reacting to her words at the beginning of the day, Mr Sarkozy gently mocked his rival, who he described as "not in a good mood this morning".

"It must be the opinion polls," he added.

But he reacted more firmly during a visit to a World War II resistance memorial later in the day, saying he could not understand why Ms Royal had felt the need to resort to "verbal violence".

"I told Ms Royal that politics should be about respect, openness, tolerance, unity. I feel she's just ending with violence, a certain feverishness. France deserves something else."

Did the televised debate sway many French voters?

Ms Royal, a former environment minister who hopes to become the first woman president of France, has made her opponent's divisive character the centre of her campaign, says the BBC's Oana Lungescu, in Paris.

But she is the one who seemed to lose her cool during the debate this week, our correspondent adds, while Mr Sarkozy appears increasingly presidential.

Centrist Francois Bayrou, defeated in the first round of voting, has said he will not vote for Mr Sarkozy.

But analysts say Ms Royal's pursuit of Mr Bayrou's "floating" voters has not been a success.

The BBC's Paris correspondent Caroline Wyatt says that few doubt Mr Sarkozy's competence or ability to get things done, and most are now planning to choose the path of reform he has laid out.

Ill-tempered debate

Both candidates held their final big rallies on Thursday, Ms Royal in Lille in the north and Mr Sarkozy at the other end of the country in Montpellier.

HAVE YOUR SAY
None of the candidates are particularly appealing
Guillaume, Brussels

Mr Sarkozy, 52, promised to unify the nation, re-invigorate the economy and restore full employment. He also defended several of his most controversial comments.

Ms Royal, 53, called for a French rebirth, saying she offered a safe choice for those wanting "a protecting France, a fraternal France, a competitive France".

Their sometimes ill-tempered TV debate on Wednesday, watched by an estimated 23m people, left both claiming victory.

The rivals clashed over employment, the economy and law and order, but opinion polls showed the debate had not reversed Mr Sarkozy's momentum.


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Comments on the final day of campaigning



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