- Friday is the last official day of campaigning before Sunday’s French presidential election
- President Nicolas Sarkozy will hold his final rally in the Mediterranean city of Nice
- Front-runner Franois Hollande tells French radio he favors a European Central Bank rate cut
- The economy and unemployment have been key issues in campaigning
Paris (CNN) — France’s presidential contenders embarked Friday on their last day of campaigning before voters go to the polls Sunday.
Opinion polls suggest incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy is trailing Socialist challenger Franois Hollande going into the first round of voting.
The economy and jobs have been key issues in campaigning as France struggles to overcome low growth and a 10% unemployment rate.
Sarkozy, the flamboyant center-right politician who has led the country since 2007, is expected to hold his final campaign rally in the southeastern city of Nice on Friday evening.
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Speaking to Le Figaro newspaper Thursday, Sarkozy said voters had a “crucial choice” to make for their country.
He pledged new strategies for economic growth and job creation, saying France was already seeing signs of recovery this year.
Hollande, who held a rally outside Bordeaux on Thursday night, will be in the northern Haute-Marne and the Ardennes areas Friday.
The center-left candidate called for a European Central Bank rate cut in an interview Friday on French radio station Europe 1.
“There are two ways we can go. The first is to lower interest rates if we indeed believe this is a way to support growth. And I believe it is, and that the European Central Bank should go in that direction,” Hollande said.
“There is a second way which would be to lend directly to states themselves, rather than the chosen path, which has been to support the banks.”
Hollande said that although Germany, Europe’s largest economy, might oppose the idea, it should be part of the discussion.
Asked if, as president, he would participate in a U.N.-led military intervention in Syria, he said: “Yes, if it is at the request of the United Nations, we would participate in this intervention.”
Sarkozy, who has been vocal on the international stage, told Europe 1 on Thursday that France was at the center of diplomatic efforts to put pressure on Syria over its crackdown on opposition.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top diplomats met Thursday in Paris for talks on Syria.
“As with Libya, it is France that’s behind this meeting, it is France that is behind this tough stance on Syria. If we hadn’t set up this meeting, then it would be like giving (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad carte blanche (to act),” Sarkozy said.
“Bashar al-Assad lies, he lies shamelessly and he wants to wipe Homs off the map, as (Libya’s Moammar) Gaddafi wanted to wipe out Benghazi,” he said, referring to the besieged Syrian city and the Libyan rebel stronghold.
The latest survey from CSA for CNN affiliate BFM-TV, published Friday, gives Hollande 28% of the vote in the first round to 25% for Sarkozy.
If no candidate wins an absolute majority, a runoff election between the two with the most votes will take place May 6.
A second round matchup between the two front-runners would see Hollande extend his lead to 57% support, compared with 43% for Sarkozy, the survey suggests.
Three other candidates make it into double digits in polling ahead of the first-round vote: Jean-Luc Mlenchon on the extreme left, Marine Le Pen on the extreme right and Franois Bayrou, a centrist.
Bayrou will be in the Annecy region Friday. Le Pen’s last rally was Wednesday in Paris, while Mlenchon staged his final rally a day later, also in the capital.
The 10 candidates in the race are not allowed to campaign on the day before the vote.
France and Germany have been at the heart of the drive to keep the European single currency sound and Europe on course.
Both Sarkozy and Hollande are committed Europeans, but if either have to turn to the extremists on the right or left for help in winning the second round of the election, it could have an impact on their policies.
CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne, Azanie M’packo and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.