France election: Sarkozy and Hollande trade insults


Both candidates accused each other of lying - Courtesy TF1

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his challenger Francois Hollande have traded insults in their only TV debate of the election campaign.

The president called Mr Hollande a "little slanderer", while his rival said Mr Sarkozy shirked responsibility.

Mr Sarkozy defended his record and said he had kept France out of recession. But Mr Hollande said France was going through a "serious crisis" and was struggling with slow growth.

The run-off vote takes place on Sunday.

The BBC's Gavin Hewitt says it was a long, bad-tempered debate that left the impression that neither candidate liked each other.

There were plenty of angry exchanges, with both candidates accusing each other of lying.

Mr Hollande accused President Sarkozy of "ruining the French economy", prompting his rival to say he had been unfairly blamed.

"It's never your fault," Mr Hollande responded, to which Mr Sarkozy said: "It's a lie, it's a lie!"

'Most vulnerable'

Analysts said neither candidate landed a knockout blow - which may be to the advantage of Mr Hollande, the favourite for Sunday's vote.

Opinion polls suggest the Socialist candidate has a lead of seven percentage points.

Mr Hollande said he would work to help those in need, saying that those "with privileges" had been protected under Mr Sarkozy.

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This was a long, scrappy political fight which left the impression that neither candidate liked each other”

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"I will be a president for justice, because we are going through a serious crisis that hits in particular the most modest of us, the hardest working people, those who are the most vulnerable."

He accused Mr Sarkozy of failing to take responsibility for the economic difficulties that France was suffering, blaming it instead on the global economic crisis.

Mr Hollande said unemployment levels were "a record" and referred to the downgrading of France's credit rating.

Lashing back at Mr Hollande, President Sarkozy said France had done better than other European countries in coping with the economic climate.

Polling averages show Mr Sarkozy on 46.5% and Mr Hollande on 53.5%

Latest poll results


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1 May


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Francois Hollande





Nicolas Sarkozy





"What is the country to not have known recession since 2009 - it is France," Mr Sarkozy said.

He rejected Mr Hollande's proposed stimulus programmes, insisting that France had to cut spending and debts.

The president also accused Mr Hollande of representing only the unions, rather than all of France.

"It's all very nice to talk about uniting people, but it has to be put into practice," he said.

Mr Hollande also said he would be firm on demands made by the Muslim community, saying he supported France's ban on face-covering veils and would not allow separate hours in swimming pools for men and women.

Mr Sarkozy has similarly criticised demands for special treatment from France's Muslim community.

'Healthy anger'

The debate was broadcast live by several channels and ran over time to nearly three hours.

There has been a huge build-up to the event, billed variously by newspapers as The Last Duel and The Final Confrontation.

About a third of France's 63 million people were set to watch the live debate.

Mr Sarkozy had attacked Mr Hollande for refusing to hold three election debates instead of one, but there has been just one debate per presidential election since 1974, apart from in 2002 when Jacques Chirac refused to debate with the far right's Jean-Marie Le Pen.

A key moment in Mr Sarkozy's 2007 debate with Segolene Royal - Mr Hollande's former partner and mother of his children - came when he told the Socialist candidate to "calm down". She repeatedly refused to do so, saying some anger was "perfectly healthy".

In this debate, Mr Sarkozy came across as the more aggressive participant, leaning forward and raising his voice more often, analysts say.

It was presented by two French TV anchors, Laurence Ferrari of TF1 and David Pujadas of France 2.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    The French brought the idea of republicanism to modern Europe on the blade of the Guillotine. I'm not sure any socialists are prepared to wheel out the old war horse to do a job today. However, I'm sure Sarkozy is happy to release the blade onto the necks of the people he feels are to blame for taking France down another cul de sack.Who knows what the French will do. I recommend a quick execution

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Sarkozy has clearly demonstrated Hollande's total incompetence, economic and international amongst others, and challenged all the contradictions in Hollande's words.
    One must remember that Hollande has never held any government responsibility, and lives in kuckoo land.
    France will need more than help if Hollande goes through..
    Sarkozy did a good job tonight- the result will be close

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    It doesn't matter who gets in in France any more than it does here. Europe is now an unelected Empire on the lines of the Soviet Union. With unemployment at a record high and most of Europe in recession, the great gamble has clearly failed, as anyone with an ounce of sense always knew it would. Yet it is still being lauded by our demented politicians and media as the best thing since slice bread.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    TV debates..... pointless.

    Remember Clegg.... did really well in them and shot up in opinion polls....

    Did not mean a thing when the election happened.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    All the people who claim to know that Hollande will be disastrous for France know no such thing. All they know is he isn't just another right wing leader and they would be best minded it was right wing free market low regulation of the financial markets that virtually killed our economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    The BBC is Conservative, albeit with a small 'c'. Tories & Socialists should understand this before ranting about bias. Moreover, their news sets always reflect the colour of the government in power
    . . . and I should know, I worked for the BBC. Moreover, I am social democrat BTW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    What a choice. Whoever of those two populist figures it is, Europe and ultimately France itself will pay dearly for it. I believe DSK would have been a good choice, but the Amarican plot against him worked out undfortunately!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    France needs a change so also Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Hollande appears to saying the rich should pay their dues and help the poor. Dreadfully unreasonable. Doesn't he know some people need two or three cars ,a couple of houses and at least a few hundred thousand euros in the bank,not to mention several long holidays. Saving the poor is all very well but there's no money in it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    It looks like the french will end up with a frenchman for president - for a while.

    When it dosen't go well the Eu will select a beuracratic adminsitrator acceptable to the germans - and then the french will riot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    France is doomed if it gets Hollande, however I cannot stand that little twerp Sarkosy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The people who fear Hollande are the people who object to losing some personal wealth in order to ensure everyone has enough to live on. The greedy are losing out to the needy and about time too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I find it interesting that a far left candidate is the one to say that austerity alone is not the answer. The others saying such are the, capitalist, countries of the UK and the USA.

    Regardless, should France elect Mr Hollande, France will soon find it's socialist heritage a very heavy burden in the very near future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    5. squeezy; Sarkozy is Good for NOTHING.... END OF

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    The BBC is Conservative, albeit with a small 'c'. Tories and Socialists should understand this before ranting about bias. Moreover, their news sets always reflect the colour of the government in power and when you take all this in, you may finally stop moaning about your political view being unrepresented.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    #5 Like France is well off under the diluted free market which it has lived with for decades. Socialism will ensure the burdens before the French people are fairly absorbed based upon ability to pay. Expect Britain to catch up when I'm pushing up the diasies but socialism is the only answer in the end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The last stand of a desperate right-winger who has let down the poorest.

    He has to rely on spin and the backing of the rich media barons to divert attention and slant obvious injustice of poor getting poorer while the rich get richer.....sounds familiar

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    5. squeezy
    "If Hollande wins then France will follow the other countries in decline, Greece, Spain etc that have socialist governments."

    The UK has a conservative, capitalist government and it's in its worst, most sustained recession in decades. Germany is regulated and has one of the best economies in Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Irrelevant and a waste of an HYS Discussion

    The people of the UK barely bother with Elections in the UK, why should they care about the French Elections?

    epic fail BBC!


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