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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28 Apr

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 200.

    Neither are good for France. If Hollande wins he has no solid roadmap the pull the country out of the absorbing crisis, The Fact the both FFrance & Germany dictate terms in Europe (Germany with a bit more spine) adds to the economic pressure.

    Sarkosy has played the dirty game of pandering to the far right Votebank. he will stay the course if he wins & bring down France to the levels of Spain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Things will not be pleasant in France with either of them. The socialist will raise taxes and waste money and the economy will die, Sarkozy will continue to hold in the reins of spending and the economy will remain slumped along with the rest of the Eurozone. Neither of them will be able to make everything all right again. We face the same prospect here in a few years time, so watch closely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    The "poison chalice" takes on new meaning. Whoever wins will be managed by the bond markets. Sarkozy has failed to implement the changes he promised leaving Hollande poorly placed.

    France need to move the retirement age to 67, and vigourously deregulate its economy. At the same time it needs to rein in public sector spending and cut bureaucracy.

  • 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 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


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