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French elections agenda shifted from economic anxiety to terrorism and crime.

President Sarkozy during military ceremony in Montauban.

As a -apparently non desired- political outcome of the terrorist acts of the now killed Mohammed Merah, the agenda of the French presidential campaign shifted from economic anxiety and joblessness (where the Socialist candidate F. Hollande feels more comfortable) to terrorism and crime (Sarkozy is seen here as a stronger candidate in these topics).

In comparison with Hollande, the facts show that  President Nicolas Sarkozy had a sharper political reaction to the terrorist acts of Mohammed Merah, who was killed by the police on Thursday in Toulouse after himself claiming responsibility for killing seven people (three jewish children, one rabbi and three soldiers).

Now the tone of the presidential campaign, apparently is tilting in Mr. Sarkozy’s favor.

President Sarkozy build his electoral agenda based in his reputation for toughness on crime and for polarizing comments about immigrants and Islam. During the crisis, Mr. Sarkozy tried to incarnate the unity of France, and his willingness to protect the country from its enemies.

His main challenger, the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande, is focusing his electoral strategy on the “economic weakness” of France.

Mr. Sarkozy is likely to gain the first round of the election on April 22, when 10 candidates are competing. Among those are Ms. Le Pen, the centrist François Bayrou and the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is also squeezing Mr. Hollande.

But the second round on May 6 will be much harder for President Sarkozy.  Time will tell.

If  Mr. Sarkozy continue placing himself in the heart of the campaign he has chances. Mr. Hollande’s failure to make security a priority can cost him the election.  However, Hollande is trying to compensate this weakness of his campaign.

During the crisis Mr. Hollande issued several press releases calling for unity, for popular support for the police and for sympathy with the victims, both Muslim and Jewish. On Thursday, Mr. Hollande issued another news release, hailing “an end to insufferable anguish” in Toulouse. He said that “this ordeal reminds us that the fight against terrorism is a combat of every moment and allows for neither laxity nor weakness.” The French republic is stronger than its enemies, he said, and can defend itself “without losing anything of its values against its worst adversaries.”

However, Hollande´s press releases could not match the image of President Sarkozy, standing in the Élysée Palace, on national television, having in the background the French and European flags, while calling for national unity and announcing new presidential measures to crack down on terrorism.

The “president-candidate” is back, and the winds of  the campaign favor him.