PARIS • France's conservative party leader Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday ruled out making any alliance with President Francois Hollande's ruling Socialists to stop the increasingly popular far right from winning regional councils in elections this month.
The question of alliances has taken centre stage in France after polls forecast the National Front (FN) would win at least two of 13 regions in the two-round election if the conservatives and Socialists both stand against it in the run-off.
Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said "everything must be done" to keep the FN out of power, including alliances with Mr Sarkozy's The Republicans.
But Mr Sarkozy turned down the offer yesterday. "I have nothing to do with the (FN), but I also fight the Socialists' policies," Mr Sarkozy, who was president of France from 2007 to 2012 before losing an election to Mr Hollande in 2012, told Europe 1 radio.
Alliances between France's two biggest mainstream parties "would be doing a favour to (FN leader Marine) Le Pen. It would show that the FN is the only opposition party", said Mr Sarkozy.
A BVA poll on Sunday showed Ms Le Pen winning in northern France's Nord-Pas-de-Calais region by a comfortable margin if The Republicans and Socialists stay for the run-off. Both are forecast to qualify for the second round. Her niece, Ms Marion Marechal-Le Pen, would also win the south-east Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur under the same scenario.
If the Socialists, seen coming third in the first round in both regions, pull out or strike an alliance with Mr Sarkozy's conservative party, the FN might still win, but that would be less certain.
Ms Le Pen would have a much smaller head start and the run-off between her niece and the conservatives in the south-east would be too close to call, the BVA poll showed.
Both the chief of France's employers' group and a major regional newspaper on Tuesday warned voters against backing the far right, a measure of growing concern at the FN's rise.
The anti-immigrant party has benefited from worries over Europe's migrant crisis and the Paris attacks. A survey by Elabe pollsters showed FN's No. 2 official, Mr Florian Philippot, would win in eastern France, again assuming the Socialists and Republicans do not strike alliances.
Mr Hollande has seen a huge boost to his approval ratings over his handling of the aftermath of the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris last month. That might help mitigate the Socialists' much-expected defeat in the regional elections somewhat, but they are still seen suffering heavy losses - they currently rule all but one region.