French presidential candidates spar in televised debate | News | DW | 02.05.2012
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French presidential candidates spar in televised debate

The two men vying for the French presidency have exchanged verbal blows in their only face-to-face TV debate, making their case to voters just four days before the run-off election.

French presidential candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande exchanged heated accusations Wednesday evening in a highly anticipated televised debate, one of their last chances to appeal to voters ahead of Sunday's run-off election.

Socialist candidate Hollande accused conservative incumbent Sarkozy of passing tax reform that favored the wealthy, saying that France over the past five years had been "struck down" and "divided."

"I will be a president of justice because we are going through a difficult crisis, a serious crisis that hits the most humble among us, so I want justice to be at the heart of the republic," Hollande said.

Watch video 01:19

Sarkozy plays defense in debate

Sarkozy, 57, counterattacked Hollande, saying he has been unfairly blamed for economic problems that have hit France and its neighbors. Several times he accused Hollande of "lying" and "slander."

"Why is Germany doing better than us? Because Germany has done the opposite of the policies you are proposing to the French people," Sarkozy said to his opponent.

The debate was the only time when the two men went face-to-face against each other in the campaign.

Sarkozy courts the far right

When Hollande promised to freeze gas prices if they rose too high and accused Sarkozy of wanting to "leave the French to live with these prices," Sarkozy fired back, saying the idea was unrealistic.

"Letting the French think that the price of oil and the price of gas will go down, or we can block the prices - there is no country in the world that reacts like this. And naturally, it's the taxpayer who will pay ," Sarkozy said.

Hollande, also 57, has a clear advantage in the race, having taken 28.6 percent of the vote to Sarkozy's 27.2 percent in the election's first round on April 22. A poll by IFOP released Wednesday predicted Hollande would win 54 percent of the votes in the two-way race to Sarkozy's 46 percent.

Sarkozy has been trying to woo the nearly 18 percent of voters who backed far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the first round, taking hawkish positions on immigration. However Le Pen, who set a record for the far-right in France, has refused to endorse Sarkozy. Wednesday's poll found 43 percent of Le Pen's supporters would vote for Sarkozy, while 39 percent are undecided.

acb/jm (AP, AFP)

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