- Title: FRANCE: Voters get ready to watch presidential rivals to face off in TV debate
- Date: 3rd May 2012
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (MAY 2 2012) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF NEWSPAPER HEADLINES VARIOUS OF NEWSPAPER HEADLINES FRONT PAGE OF LIBERATION SAYING: "WHAT THEY THINK ABOUT EACH OTHER" VARIOUS OF NEWSPAPER HEADLINES WITH LE PARISIEN FRONT PAGE HEADLINE SAYING "THEIR STRATEGY FOR THE DEBATE" LE FIGARO FRONT PAGE SHOWING FACES OF BOTH CANDIDATES LE FIGARO INSIDE PAGE READING "THE LAST BATTLE"
- Embargoed: 18th May 2012 13:00
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Topics: Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA1OQGHDE4XV11MYB1J38TOSEWK
- Story Text: Nicolas Sarkozy faces Francois Hollande in a "moment of truth" television debate on Wednesday (May 2) that could be the French president's last chance to avoid defeat at the hands of his socialist challenger in Sunday's election runoff.
Tonight's TV debate is seen as potentially crucial for both camps and for the twenty million people expected to watch the two-and-a-half hour debate.
Five days before polling Parisians expect a lot from both candidates' appearance.
Hollande, who leads polls with some estimated 53 percent and 56 percent of support before the May 6 runoff, rejected Sarkozy's proposal to hold three debates, agreeing to the standard of one sole debate in French elections.
For many he appears today as not wanting to make mistakes. Sarkozy's debating style is pugnacious, while Hollande tends to keep his distance.
"Let him come tonight to the debate. He will be there of course, and let have him ask me as many questions as he wants. But honestly the only question to ask is : Do the French people want to continue the same politics that failed for the past five years ?" the socialist candidate Hollande said when asked on French radio about tonight's debate.
Twenty TV cameras will scrutinise the two rivals from every angle as they sit 2.5 metres (8 feet) apart across a table. The two sides have agreed on logistical details down to the temperature of the TV studio - between 19 and 20 degrees Celsius (66-68 Fahrenheit) and chairs that can be adjusted for height.
The debate starts at 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) and, monitored by a large wall clock, must not run over 2 hours and 30 minutes.
"Of course I am going to watch the debate. I am expecting to learn about Mr. Hollande, and I hope that tonight he will tell us more about him," said Samia, a Parisian working as a medical assistant.
"The dice has not been cast yet and the French are the masters of their destiny. The challenge is so great that people really have to think twice before going to vote. What is going to happen is too important. I think the crisis is still there, and we need strong people who are able to defend us. That's the reason I am going to watch. I want to see the one who is more up to it (the challenge)," Laurent, another Parisian, said.
Tonight the two candidates are likely to argue over their plans to cut debt and boost growth.
Sarkozy - who has betrayed the stress he is under by seeming irritable and aggressive in some recent appearances - intends to "flush" the seemingly unflappable Hollande "out of the woods", an aide told French media this week.
Sarkozy and Hollande both deny having trained with coaches or held dress rehearsals with stand-in sparring partners. They have come face to face several times in the past, most notably in a 1999 debate on Europe.
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