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France Prepares for Presidential Run-off Election

In the final days of France's presidential campaigns, opinion polls show that conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has increased his lead over socialist Segolene Royal. Margaret Warner reports from France on the countdown to Sunday's presidential runoff.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Paris in the spring. And on Tuesday, the left took the streets for the annual May Day parade. Workers, socialists, communists and Trotskyites singing hymns of socialist solidarity, as they march down the city's ancient streets.

    France, with its generous public benefits and worker-friendly labor rules, has been close to a socialist paradise in the family of industrial democracies, and city planner Fabrice LaBroille hopes it will stay that way.

  • FABRICE LABROILLE, City Planner (through translator):

    My life is good, and I like that to be the case for everybody.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But France's high unemployment and lagging economic growth have dimmed that good life and given center stage in this presidential campaign to this question: Must France fundamentally change to compete in a globalized world?

    The standard-bearer of the message that it must, center-right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy, the energetic son of a Hungarian immigrant, wants to do to his country's economic system what Margaret Thatcher did to hers. "The French must work more to earn more," he says, and he believes many French agree with him.

  • NICOLAS SARKOZY, French Presidential Candidate (through translator):

    I've met a France that doesn't want a break, but a France that wants to build, that wants to work, that wants to get ahead, but that hasn't been allowed to do so.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Sarkozy's remedy is positively Reaganesque: to lower taxes, which at the upper ends hit 60 percent; to introduce flexibility in the labor laws; and to stop penalizing employers and workers if they exceed the legal 35-hour workweek.

    Hoping to stop that vision of France dead in its tracks, Segolene Royal, the coolly elegant former education minister and Socialist Party candidate. The first woman with a serious chance of becoming French president, she too tells the country it needs to change, but in a kinder, gentler, more humane way.

  • SEGOLENE ROYAL, French Presidential Candidate (through translator):

    In the France that I dream of, there is a place for every man and every woman. No one will be excluded.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    She says the way to spur economic growth is to spend more on education and research. She wants to raise the minimum wage by 20 percent, beef up the universal government-funded pension system, and create subsidized jobs for the vast numbers of young French who are unemployed.