Paris French President Nicolas Sarkozy said yesterday he would fight with everything he has to win a second term but will bow out of politics if he loses an April-May election.
Sarkozy, who is badly lagging behind Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in opinion polls six weeks before the first round of voting, said his opponent's lack of ministerial or international experience was a problem in a time of economic turmoil.
"I worry when I look at the Socialist candidate's programme... and I worry about this dearth of experience in such a troubled period," Sarkozy told RMC radio.
"But if the French people do not put their faith in me, do you really think I would carry on in politics? The answer is no."
Hollande widened his lead slightly this week, advancing two points to 30 per cent support for the April 22 first round, while Sarkozy gained only 1 point to 28 per cent. The survey, by pollster CSA, saw Hollande beating Sarkozy by 56 per cent to 44 per cent in a May 6 runoff.
"I will fight with all my strength to win your confidence, to protect and lead you and build a strong France, but if that is not your choice I will bow out, that's the way it is, and I will have had a great life in politics," he said.
Sarkozy said on a three-hour televised debate on Tuesday that he was not discouraged by his weak poll scores and that one his characteristics is that he never gives up.
Efforts not working
But French media are reporting that his campaign team is starting to worry that Sarkozy's efforts to overcome a widespread dislike of his personal style and anger over three years of economic gloom are not working.
Campaign spokeswoman Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet — who was lambasted as out of touch after she was unable to tell a radio presenter the price of a Paris metro ticket — lamented this week that the race had descended into distracting polemic.
Presidential spokesman Frank Louvrier has been quoted by the daily Les Echos as saying that if Sarkozy's camp did not keep the focus squarely on debating ideas they were "sure to lose".