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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"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 50.

    God help France if Hollande becomes its president. No class, no charisma, no substance, just a man who tries to shout louder than his interlocutor. With Hollande France is likely to go to the dogs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    #9 seems a reasonable argument which when translated to the UK would have suggested a vote for Gordon Brown. Incumbent blamed for economic downturn. Opponent no government experience. Plus ca change plus ce n'est pas la meme chose, je crois

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    @ 24.Archimedes Screwed
    true, the bbc is the status quo and the news broadly reflects the political power of the day (liberal capitalism for 30 yrs+ )

    here's hoping the french show us a way beyond this dull, wasteful, elitist creed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Have to agree with Sarkozy on cutting spending and debt. He's got that right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I thought Mr Sarkozy was lot more realistic with the economic problems France is facing. Where would Mr Hollande get the funds to employ so many more teachers? I would be very worried to see Mr Hollande President. He doesn't have enough experience to take on such a responsibility. He would put the country in even more debt. I am French and after tonight, my vote will go to Sarkozy, no doubt!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Having just watched the whole debate, I thought Hollande did far better than I was expecting; Sarkozy looked tense, flustered and under pressure a lot of the time. I don't suppose any of it will make much diffeence, though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    If they had kept their dictators like Britian, they wouldn't have had this democratic debate now. We can only watch democracy show from away while our dictator throws dimond stones at us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Ou est la biblioteque?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    An interesting debate, well sort of, Hollande seemed to have the art of over/understating figures by 20% perfected, Sarkozy managed to not respond with ease, I don't have the right to vote having not been through the 366 day 'process', not sure if I'm glad or sad, Sunday will be even more interesting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I doubt that this post will survive the mods, but what's the chance that before, say, the 150th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale the BBC will conspire with the www to let the BBC's site use the cedilla wherever appropriate, such as in the given name of the present challenger to Nicolas Sarkozy?

    Ah—cutely a cedilla is in the caption below Mr Hollande's portrait, but not in the story's body.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Seems to me the French go with Hollande because they are fed up with Sarkozy and defintely don't want any of the other candidates. It's a sad state of affairs when the only politicians to choose from are all ego driven megalomaniacs using the malaise they themselves inflicted on their people to wow those same people by blaming everybody else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Would you rather just know the outcome of Sunday's Presidential vote?
    See my blog:

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Whoever wins in France will face the same insurmountable problem. France has put itself forward as a guarantor of debt for Spain, Italy et al.... but itself is just keeping its head above water. "They" either have to go for a full federal Europe to save the Euro, or call a halt to the experiment. This half way house will bring them all down in spiral of debt and austerity. Apart from Germany :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Hollande is giving Sarkozy a Mitterrand-style battering. Sarkozy was terrible. Bring on Sunday's vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    31. Dunkeld 6MINUTES AGO
    (bar the odd,usually successful, apperance from Mr Galloway of course

    Gorgeous George is no socialist....a very clever religious player. A demagogue....

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    @ Luigi- all Hollande did tonight is respond on semantics- ie as a politician who has never held a responsible job (with actual consequences on decisions)- he did not actually answer the questions on savings etc. When cornered he attacked back rather than answered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Too bad Sarkozy lost his temper a few times (I don't blame him though, facing patent lies) - it really looks like France is in for five years of destruction.
    There would be some hope if Hollande was as smart as Mitterrand was so he too would roll back most of the folly after two years, but he clearly isn't - I'm glad I'm not living in France. But for Europe this will be devastating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Whichever one wins you may be sure that he will champion the interests of France much more strongly than Cameron & co. do for the UK. Which will be interesting as the interests of France and of the EU drift further apart.

  • Comment number 32.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I wonder if Red Ed (he looks decidedly pale pink beside Hollande) will learn any lessons? British socialists did not all drop down dead the minute Kinnock lost his election,they just became 'Old Labour' and they haven't had anyone to vote for since. (bar the odd,usually successful, apperance from Mr Galloway of course)


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