French presidential runner Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday brushed off remarks from far-right rival Jean-Marie Le Pen who said Sarkozy's immigrant roots should be a factor for voters who head to the polls in less than two weeks.
The leader of the far-right National Front at the weekend described Sarkozy as "a candidate who hails from immigration" and asserted: "I am a candidate from this land."
"Jean-Marie Le Pen said there was a difference between him and me. He's right. We are different, very different, I would add," said Sarkozy in a television interview.
Born in France to a Hungarian father and French mother of Greek Jewish origin, Sarkozy has often talked about being the target of taunts because of his foreign-sounding name during his childhood in the chic Paris suburb of Neuilly.
Asked whether his zero-immigration policy would have prevented the Sarkozy family from emigrating to France, Le Pen replied: "France could have done without Nicolas Sarkozy who would have perhaps had a very nice career in Hungary."
"It's true that there is a difference, a choice that could be considered fundamental by a certain number of Frenchmen," said Le Pen.
Sarkozy, 52, the candidate of the governing party, said he was unfazed by Le Pen's "habit of making provocative statements".
"I am not shocked. I am a candidate for the presidency. I know it's hard, it's tough. If I weren't able to withstand all that and remain calm, it would then be better for me to do something else," said Sarkozy.
Sarkozy is leading in the polls for the first round of voting on April 22 but Le Pen is among the top four contenders who could theoretically win enough votes to stand in the second round scheduled for May 6.
The 78-year-old far-right candidate is confident that he will be one of the two contenders who will move on to the runoff, repeating the electoral upset of the 2002 vote that shocked the nation.
In that election, Le Pen beat Socialist Lionel Jospin and went on to confront Jacques Chirac in the runoff.
An Ipsos/Dell poll published Tuesday showed Sarkozy was holding steady with 30.5 percent of votes in the first round, followed by Socialist Segolene Royal with 23 percent.
The centrist Francois Bayrou was in third place with 19.5 percent of the votes and Le Pen scored fourth, garnering 13 percent.
In a runoff, Sarkozy would beat Royal with 54 percent of votes compared to 46 percent for the Socialist contender, according to the Ipsos/Dell survey.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16