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WARSAW — The French presidential election is a great “show” with all the ingredients of a Hollywood blockbuster, including a surprising plot twist: the emergence of a “third man,” Francois Bayrou.

Even if his victory remains unlikely, Bayrou must now be taken seriously. First and foremost, he has found in Segolene Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy two remarkable spokespersons for his candidacy. The more Royal returns to the “classics” of the Socialist Party, and the more Sarkozy openly courts the extreme right, the more Bayrou’s popularity rises. Indeed, persistent doubts among the French about Royal’s competence and Sarkozy’s character are the primary reasons for his dramatic rise in public opinion polls, from 7 percent support at the start of the campaign to 22 percent now.

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