Paris, April 24
Nicolas Sarkozy is taking the gloves off in his bid to beat Francois Hollande in the French presidential run-off, saying he will "bl w out of the water" the Socialist he accuses of fleeing debates.
"We’re going to be horrible," the conservative daily Le Figaro on Tuesday quoted a Sarkozy advisor as saying, with the paper saying there were "no holds barred" ahead of the May 6 run-off.
"We have to harass Hollande, like they’ve harassed me," Sarkozy reportedly told his advisers after being beaten 28.63 percent to 27.18 in the first round which qualified the two men for the second round.
Sarkozy is expected to play up the inexperience of his rival, who has been a lawmaker, the head of the Socialist Party for 11 years and of a rural local administration in central France but has never held a ministerial post.
The right-winger believes he will triumph in a one-on-one televised debate set for May 2, and called already on Sunday for three debates to be held, an invitation swiftly rejected by Hollande’s team.
The hyperactive Sarkozy is expected to deploy all his energy in particularly virulent attacks on the Socialist candidate.
"This is about debating before the French people, project against project, personality against personality, experience against experience.
"The French people have a right to know, Mr. Hollande must not run away," Sarkozy said on Monday.
Some of his advisers have predicted that Hollande will be "afraid" during the debate.
"That’s right, Nicolas Sarkozy always the show-off," Hollande told the left-leaning Liberation newspaper on Tuesday, deliberately contrasting his less-aggressive tone with that of Sarkozy.
He said he would go into the televised debate "very serene".
"I think it should be a time of elevation."
"The incumbent wants to turn it into a fight, because he has no choice. He’s like a runner who’s been distanced and tries to catch up by grabbing the leader’s shirt," Hollande said.
Hollande has sought to project an image of calm throughout the campaign, despite accusations, even from within his own camp, that he is wishy-washy, even boring, and maintains vague positions.
The detached attitude has so far worked, as Hollande has managed to unite previously disparate Socialists around him and he remains the favourite to win the run-off.
Sarkozy now has 10 days to make his own prediction come true.
"I’m going to win and I’m going to tell you why," Sarkozy told a journalist from the left-leaning Le Monde daily last month.
"He’s no good and you can start to tell. Hollande is useless!"
Sarkozy himself denied having said such a thing, but a few days later he felt renewed confidence, saying he was going to "blow him out of the water."