It’s the moment of truth.
Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande will battle it out in the final debate on Wednesday night (8 pm GMT, 3 pm EST) before the second round of French presidential elections on Sunday.
Polls still show socialist candidate Hollande with a small lead over incumbent centre-right Sarkozy, Le Monde reports, and most experts believe this is the end of the road for Sarko.
The fact that the far-right’s Marine Le Pen has refused to endorse Sarkozy, coupled with the French’s apparent deep dislike for their flamboyant and often loud-mouthed President has not helped him either. But can Sarkozy pull a rabbit out of the hat?
“Hollande is losing about half a point a day. The maths say that each point is worth about 350,000 votes, so – ballpark – Mr Sarkozy needs to find an additional million supporters before Sunday,” The Telegraph’s Benedict Brogan says. And there’s always the 22 per cent who were “undecided” during the first vote.
While Sarkozy’s problem has been his attempts to have too broad a manifesto, a televised debate could be just the thing he needs to see him through. The pugnacious President has left more of an impression in public speaking engagements than Hollande, who has often been described as “plodding” and a “genial tortoise”. He could use a debate watched by 20 million people to make Hollande look incompetent and rally the troops with his rhetoric for one last push, the Guardian reports.
“Sarkozy is very combative, very pugnacious. He can be quite hard with his interlocutors and Hollande has to avoid being browbeaten,” Christopher Bickerton, an associate professor of international relations at the Sciences Po university, told Reuters.The Guardian is liveblogging the debate here >
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