Sarkozy's popularity surges to two-year high: poll

PARIS Mon Mar 19, 2012 3:02pm EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy's popularity has reached the highest level in more than two years, a poll showed on Monday, in a further sign efforts to step up his re-election campaign are bearing fruit.

Pollsters LH2 found that 40 percent of those surveyed had a positive opinion, up two percentage points from a month ago and surging from a record low of 30 percent at the start of the year.

Sarkozy has accelerated his campaign in recent weeks with daily media appearances as he battles to narrow Socialist challenger Francois Hollande's poll lead.

Three polls run by pollsters Ifop have showed Sarkozy edging ahead of Hollande in the April 22 first round of the presidential election, but all major polls still find that Sarkozy would lose in the May 6 runoff.

France's electoral authorities cleared 10 candidates on Monday to run in the first round of the election, including Sarkozy and Hollande.

The president of the Constitutional Council, Jean-Louis Debre, said the 10 candidates had met the requirement to provide endorsements from at least 500 elected officials by Friday's deadline.

Candidates also provided a sealed declaration of their assets which would only be opened if they win.

In addition to Sarkozy and Hollande, the Council approved the candidacy of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, centrist Francois Bayrou and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The other candidates are Eva Joly for the Greens, two Trotskyists Philippe Poutou and Nathalie Arthaud, anti-euro sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and maverick Jacques Cheminade, an associate of U.S. conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche.

The campaigns have recently become particularly bitter by French standards although campaigning was suspended on Monday after a teacher and three children were shot outside a Jewish school in Toulouse southwestern France.

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