Sarkozy and Hollande set out to woo far-right Front National Le Pen voters

As campaigning continues ahead of the 6 May run-off for French president both candidates set out on Monday to court the more than six million people who voted for the far-right Front National party of Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s first round.

Incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, who had already swung to the right in the campaign, brandished his right-wing credentials in his first post-results speech on Sunday.

"These anxieties, this suffering, I know them, I understand them," he said. "They are about respecting our borders, the determined fight against job relocation, controlling immigration, putting value on work, on security," he said.

The same issues were present as he addressed crowds on the campaign trail on Monday. He also set the tone for the next 12 days of campaigning with an outright attack on his Socialist rival François Hollande.

“I have suffered the insults of a certain number of candidates, both male and female, and I will not take lessons in morality from anyone,” he said. “Certainly not from those on the Left who were keen to put Dominque Strauss-Kahn in the Elysee a few months ago."

Hollande, who took his campaign to the northern Brittany region on Monday, also made an appeal to Front National voters.

“I am aware that some citizens are tempted by the far-right because today they do not know how to interpret their deception and disillusionment,” he said. “They were seduced five years ago by the candidate who stood before them and now they are at a loss.”

The FN vote for both candidiates could be crucial in determining the outcome of the election, but it is increasingly unlikely that FN leader Le Pen, will call on her followers to back either Sarkozy or Hollande.

"I've long considered Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande as being of a same mind on issues I consider essential, starting with the sovereignty of our country," she told French television on Monday evening.

Analysts increasingly believe Le Pen will call on supporters to abstain from the second round of voting. An outright call to vote for Sarkozy would be against her own interests as she has already said that she wants to be part of a new right opposition.

Polls taken on Sunday show that 60 per cent of FN voters say they will vote Sarkozy in the second round, while he needs around 80 per cent of the FN vote to win re-election. Around one third of voters for centrist candidate François Bayrou, who took nine per cent of the vote, say they prefer Sarkozy with another third saying they will opt for Hollande.

Hollande has already received the backing of other left-wing first round candidates, including Jean-Luc Melenchon who took just over 11 per cent of the vote and Trotskyite candidate Philippe Poutou who won 1.4 per cent. Green leader Eva Joly who won 2.3 per cent is also backing Hollande.