Nicolas Sarkozy makes a last-ditch bid on Wednesday to turn the tide against Socialist Francois Hollande when they go head to head in the French presidential election’s one and only television debate.
The duel comes a day after Sarkozy staged a huge rally to rival France’s traditional May Day show of force by the left and after National Front leader Marine Le Pen scornfully rejected his bid to woo her far-right supporters.
The President is expected to use the debate to portray his front-running rival as a dangerous left-winger whose tax-and-spend policies signal a return to 1970s socialism that will doom the already struggling French economy.
Sarkozy is generally seen as a better debater than Hollande but few expect him to be able to reverse the opinion polls that forecast the Socialist will clinch Sunday’s second round vote by around 54% to his 46.
Hollande will speak first in the debate to be broadcast live by several channels at 1900 GMT and which has been meticulously prepared — even down to the temperature of the studio — by media advisors of both candidates.
Hollande has received advice from his former partner and mother of his four children, Segolene Royal, who took on Sarkozy in 2007 when she was the Socialist candidate, in an election her right-wing opponent went on to win. She suggested he “avoid falling into one-upmanship” and make sure he “match him blow for blow”.