Sarkozy has made no secret of chasing the more than six million voters who picked far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s first round of France’s presidential poll.
There were 2,865,748 people holding a permit to stay in France in 2010, 2,376,692 of them from outside the European Union, according to official figures.
If people with dual nationality are added, the total rises to 5,260,000, 8.4 per cent of France’s population, according to immigrants’ support group Cimade.
His speeches have concentrated on race, Islam and law and order, themes dear to her Front National (FN).
On Thursday the Sarkozy camp asserted that Hollande has received declarations of support from 700 mosques, as well as controversial Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan, and that the Socialist wanted to allow all immigrants without papers the right to stay in France.
The assertions all turned out to be untrue, prompting Hollande to tell Saturday’s Le Parisien, “Thank God Ben Laden is dead! Perhaps he would have issued a call to vote for me too!”
As well as the Socialists, former prime minister and long-time Sarkozy opponent Dominique de Villepin declared that he was “frightened” by a campaign that was “giving hostages to extremism” and two parliamentarians from Sarkozy’s UMP criticised the rapprochement with the FN.
“Since Monday things have gone crazy,” Sarkozy told an election rally in Dijon on Friday. “They say I’ve toughened and ‘extremised’ my speeches. They’re putting words in my mouth. It’s a Stalinist trial just like in the good old days.”
After dodging questions on whether there are too many immigrants in France earlier in the week, Hollande on Friday declared that limits on economic immigration “necessary, indispensable”, while opposing restrictions on the number of foreign students coming to France.
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn made an intervention in the campaign in which he had hoped to be a candidate on Saturday.
Strauss-Kahn accused Sarkozy’s supporters of bugging his phones and emails and orchestrating the sexual assault case against him, in an interview with journalist Edward Jay Epstein, who is writing a book on his fall from grace, published in the UK Guardian.
At the time, Strauss-Kahn was confident that he would win the Socialist nomination to fight Sarkozy but the scandal knocked him out of the race, leading to Hollande becoming the Socialist candidate.