Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

France set for highly anticipated debate between presidential contenders

France set for highly anticipated debate between presidential contenders

The bitter rivals fighting for France's presidency face off Wednesday in their only televised debate _ the last and best chance for Socialist Segolene Royal to make up ground on conservative front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of this weekend's vote.
The live duel by two dynamic and very different candidates could draw more than 20 million viewers in a nation re-energized by its hunger for change after 12 years under President Jacques Chirac.
"It's the culmination point of the campaign," former President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who supports Sarkozy, said on RTL radio. He said the debate would be "decisive," and credited his own performance in a debate with Socialist Francois Mitterrand for his victory in 1974. Mitterrand won the presidency the next time around, in 1981.
The carefully choreographed matchup will be a challenge to both Sarkozy and Royal. They are the last two candidates standing after the April 22 first round in which Sarkozy won 31.2 percent and Royal had 25.9 percent, with 10 rival candidates across the political spectrum taking up the remainder.
Royal's underdog bid has gathered some momentum recently.
She outdid Sarkozy on Tuesday with a larger rally in Paris than one he had over the weekend. Also Tuesday, far-right nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen, who placed fourth with 4 million votes, urged his supporters to abstain Sunday. Polls show his voters were more likely to back Sarkozy than Royal, and it could cut into Sarkozy's support if they stay home.
The challenge for Sarkozy in the debate, many say, will be not to appear too macho against Royal _ the first woman with a clear shot at the presidency _ but also not to use kid gloves against her.
Royal, on the other hand, may need to come out on the offensive, to try to trip Sarkozy up. Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande said Sarkozy will try to simply get through the matchup unscathed.
He "is going to be playing for time, and playing for a 0-0 draw," said Hollande, who is also Royal's partner, on Canal Plus TV.
Sarkozy, who has held a lead in the polls since January, sought to calm speculation that the showdown could be decisive.
"I don't think the French choose a president on the lone impression that they'll have after a two-hour debate," he told France-Inter radio Wednesday.
The last head-to-head presidential-race debate, pitting Jacques Chirac against Socialist Lionel Jospin in 1995, drew 17 million viewers. Chirac won the first of his two terms that year. In 2002, he refused to debate Le Pen, who stunned much of France by ousting Jospin and other contenders in the first round.


Updated : 2021-06-14 11:51 GMT+08:00