3 May 2012

French candidates spar in marathon debate

3:05 pm on 3 May 2012

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and challenger Francois Hollande have clashed in their only TV debate of the election campaign.

The president called Mr Hollande a "little slanderer" while his Socialist rival said Mr Sarkozy shirked responsibility, the BBC reports.

Mr Sarkozy defended his record stressing that France has not had one term of recession since 2009 under his leadership.

But Mr Hollande said France was going through a "serious crisis" and was struggling with slow growth.

Mr Hollande said he would work to help those in need, saying that those "with privileges" had been protected under Mr Sarkozy.

Lashing back at Mr Hollande, President Sarkozy said France had done better than other European countries in coping with the economic climate.

Voting takes place on Sunday in the run-off between the two candidates. Opinion polls suggest Mr Hollande has a lead of between six and 10 percentage points.

The debate was broadcast live by several channels and ran over time to nearly three hours.

There was a huge build-up to the event, billed variously by newspapers as 'The Last Duel' and 'The Final Confrontation.'