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French Socialist presidential hopefuls in 'energetic' debate

The six French Socialist leaders fighting for presidency against France's President Nicolas Sarkozy appear for the second time in a television debate

Thursday 29 Sep 2011
France's President Sarkozy delivers his speech to the Group of 20 Labour Ministers reunion at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Photo:Reuters)
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The six French Socialist leaders battling for the right to stand against Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential elections have gone head-to-head for their second television debate.

The high-profile debate late Wednesday came just 11 days before the party, which has not won a presidential election since 1988, holds US-style primaries to pick a candidate for the vote to be held next April and May.

The debate was much more energetic than the previous September 15 encounter, with candidates cutting each other off, asking each other questions and firing off sporadic barbs.

"Finally the debate is getting animated," Le Parisien newspaper wrote on Thursday.

Francois Hollande is currently ahead in opinion polls, with Martine Aubry in second place.

Outsider Arnaud Montebourg (Socialist left) laid into Manuel Valls (Socialist right), slamming "those who make right-wing proposals during a left-wing primary."

"No one has a monopoly of the left," Valls fired back during the two-hour debate.

"We have had an abnormal presidency," said Hollande, with all the candidates agreeing on the need to turn the page on Sarkozy's time in office.

If elected, Hollande said he would implement a youth job creation plan, and Aubry said she would tell German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Europe needs to change.

Segolene Royal, who was the party's candidate against Sarkozy in 2007 and Hollande's ex-partner and mother of his four children, called for a government of "blameless men and women".

Jean-Michel Baylet, the leader of the small Socialist-allied Radical Party of the Left, said he would "relaunch Europe, and bring France together."

Next month's primary will not be limited to members of the Socialist Party (PS), as was the case ahead of the last presidential vote in 2007.

Any French citizen who declares that he or she is committed to left-wing ideals and hands over a euro can take part.

The right-wing Sarkozy has not officially declared that he will run for a second mandate in next year's vote, but few doubt it.

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