The final polls before France’s Presidential election on Sunday show President Nicolas Sarkozy making up ground on Socialist challenger Francois Hollande but still predict a Hollande victory.

Mr. Sarkozy on Friday predicted a “surprise” and Mr. Hollande urged his voters to avoid complacency as the bitter campaign neared its climax, driven by fears about joblessness, immigration and France’s economic future.

The result will impact on Europe’s efforts to fight its debt crisis, how long French troops stay in Afghanistan and how France exercises its military and diplomatic muscle around the world.

Mr. Sarkozy, disliked by many voters for his handling of the economy, promised he could come out victorious on Sunday. Speaking on Europe-1 radio on Friday, he said much will depend on whether French voters bother to cast ballots in an election that polls have always predicted Mr. Hollande would win.

But he also sounded increasingly philosophical and prepared for possible defeat.

Asked on Friday what he would do if he loses, Mr. Sarkozy said simply, “There will be a handover of power.”

“The nation follows its course. The nation is stronger than the destiny of the men who serve it,” he said. “The fact that the campaign is ending is more of a relief than a worry.”

Polls released on Friday and Thursday show the gap between the candidates shrinking but results still solidly in Mr. Hollande’s favour.

A poll by the BVA agency shows 52.5 per cent support for Mr. Hollande and 47.5 per cent for Mr. Sarkozy. A poll by the agency CSA shows 53 per cent for Mr. Hollande and 47 per cent for Mr. Sarkozy.

For both polling agencies, that was the smallest spread registered in the campaign, which a few months ago saw polls predicting Mr. Hollande winning by a crushing 60 per cent to Mr. Sarkozy’s 40.

The margin of error on each poll was plus or minus 2-3 per cent. BVA questioned 2,161 people by telephone Thursday. CSA questioned 1,123 people by telephone on Thursday.

The polls were carried out after the candidates’ only debate Wednesday night, which Mr. Sarkozy had hoped would be the knockout blow he needed.

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