Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party say 200,000 people turned out at the event, which had been organised as an alternative to two traditional Mayday events in France - the International Workers Day celebrations fronted by trade union leaders, and the far right Front National annual rally in tribute to Joan of Arc.
In a rousing campaign performance, Sarkozy hit out at those who have criticised him for courting voters who backed Marine Le Pen in the first round, saying he would not take lessons in morality from those who wave the red flag.
He praised the role of trade unions in defending workers but insisted they should not engage in politics, declaring to rapturous applause that in France “it is not unions who govern, it is parliament. It is people, not unions, who decide, when the way forward is blocked.”
Sarkozy claimed that without the reforms he introduced, France would now be in the “same situation as Greece and Spain.” and declared that he would promote a world where “the capitalism of entrepreneurs replaces the capitalism of financiers.”
He spoke warmly of Europe saying “there is a European model and we want to protect it,” and calling the Franco-German reconciliation “a treasured heritage” but he also insisted “we did not create Europe for it to become a sieve”, referring to his demands that the EU strengthen its external borders.
France should be proud of its identity, he proclaimed, citing the country’s “immense culture” and explaining “we do not want the cultural flattening of the world” He that if France did not defend its identity then it would “not have anything to share with other countries”, and he talked of the country’s “Christian roots”.
But he also declared “hatred never, bitterness never”.
Sarkozy ended his speech with a rousing appeal to his supporters telling them they had three days left to convince…