Sarkozy, Hollande trade blows in fraught TV debate
FRENCH President Nicolas Sarkozy pinned his dwindling hopes of re-election on an all-out verbal assault on his Socialist rival Francois Hollande last night, as the rivals traded blows in a tense televised debate.
An estimated 20 million French were glued to their screens to see whether Mr Sarkozy would make good his pledge to "atomise" the Socialist front-runner.
Mr Sarkozy's last hope of snatching an improbable victory was a "knock-out" verbal punch in the two-and-a-half-hour debate.
"Bringing people together is very nice, but one must also have acts," Mr Sarkozy began.
The blows rained down after Mr Hollande said: "You think for five years you have brought the French together and not divided them, but I don't pit public and private sector workers against each other."
The debate moved on to the economy, with Mr Hollande accusing the president of bringing unemployment to a 12-year high.
"Unemployment has gone up half as much as the rest of Europe bar Germany," Mr Sarkozy responded.
"With you it's simple, it's never your fault," said Mr Hollande.
Defeat on Sunday would make Mr Sarkozy the first president since Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1981 to fail to win re-election. (© Daily Telegraph, London)