François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy trade blows on TV as president fights for career

As they exchanged verbal blows, the two candidates often reduced the two presenters refereeing the debate to bystanders

Paris

The French presidential candidates fought like cats throughout a three- hour television debate last night, exchanging insults without landing a knockout blow.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, trailing in the polls before Sunday's second round vote, accused the Socialist challenger, François Hollande of "lying" – breaking the unwritten "parliamentary" rules of the debate.

At one point, after Mr Hollande accused him of appointing a string of cronies to judicial and state positions, a rattled Mr Sarkozy called him a "little spreader of calumnies". Mr Hollande fought back, accusing the President of being incapable of arguing his points without insulting his opponents. "The word lie is always in your mouth," he said. "That suggests perhaps that is the way you conduct your own policies."

President Sarkozy complained that Socialist politicians had compared him to collaborationist and fascist figures such as Marshal Pétain and General Franco and had compared his large open-air meeting in Paris on Tuesday to Adolf Hitler's Nuremberg rallies. "You're going to have trouble passing yourself off as a victim," retorted Mr Hollande. "Your friends have compared me to the whole bestiary, to every animal in the zoo... Are you asking us to believe you didn't inspire that?"

Mr Hollande's pugnacity seemed to take the President by surprise. The Socialist frontrunner is frequently criticised as too soft to stand up for himself – or his country. Political commentators said that his vigorous performance went some way towards answering that criticism.

As they exchanged verbal blows on their economic proposal, debt, deficits and immigration, the two candidates often reduced the two star television presenters refereeing the debate to bystanders. The President managed to trip up Mr Hollande a couple of times on his plans for controlling illegal immigration and the details of his proposal to hire 60,000 new teachers over five years. "No country in the developed world is proposing that we should start hiring more state employees," Mr Sarkozy said.

On the whole, the Socialist challenger gave a fluent and assured performance. Since Mr Hollande leads by six to eight points in the polls and is generally regarded as the poorer television performer, a score draw – even a bad-tempered one – suited him better than Mr Sarkozy.

Mr Sarkozy declared at one point that he would accept "no moral lessons" from the party of the disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Mr Hollande said that he and other Socialists had no inside knowledge on DSK's private life and asked the President whether he had his own sources of information.

Both sides claimed victory afterwards. The Socialists said that Mr Hollande came over as more presidential than the president. Mr Sarkozy's centre-right camp said Mr Hollande's aggressive approach had failed to disguise the vagueness of his proposals.

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

Maths Teacher - Evening session

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: I am looking for a qualified experi...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Supply Teachers needed in Stowmarket

£1034496 - £1516224 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The Job:Randstad ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week