Well; anyone from the US who watched the debate between Segolene Royal the centrist Socialist Candidate and Nicholas Zarkozy, the strong right wing candidate got a real dose of what a political debate should look and feel like.
I say that because I didn't get translated every word and phrase, but differences came through between a strong centrist position and and strong right wing position.
French voters do have a choice this Sunday.
For over two and one half hours, Royal and Zarkozy went at it.
The debate was televised on one private and one public/government channel.
There were two moderators, but they hardly spoke......completely unlike the US debates.
And the candidates; who clearly know each other well personally as well politically; debated back and forth.....totally unlike in the US.
What a relief!
Blue dominated the clothing. Neither wore French flags in their lapels. They sat opposite each other.
Royal on Offensive
From the beginning Royal was on the offensive and kept it up for the full time. Time was kept in regard to the nu,ber of minutes each spoke....
Royal 72:20 and Zarkozy 72:00.
Royal has been criticized for being too deadpan in her speeches. That might be true in her formal presentations, but on a one on one debate she was very strong......often putting Zarkozy on the defensive.
She started and maintained the upper hand by stating clearly that....It is YOU Zarkowzy who is responsible for the terrible conditions in the country....especially violence. You are the interior minister.
35 Hour Work Week
Zarkozy defended his position to suppress the 35 hour work week = he said to make it possible to earn more money. This got a laugh from Royal.
She said that in regard to the 35 work week, she would negotiate with the unions....if they opposed changing the 35 hours, she would NOT pursue any changes.
The debate of this issue went over 30 minutes and the moderators asked that other issues be discussed.
Royal had him on that one.
Royal called for great neighborhood policing and a restoration of the cops cutback by Zarkozy in the recent months. He had no answer for that.
Royal called for more percentage of social housing in developments. Zarkozy shouted that he strongly opposes that concept. He wants more housing for everyone. But he didn't say how.
Tax Stock Market
Royal did pick up on a campaign idea of the Marie George Buffet of the French Communist Party. She said to get more tax dollars, she would tax the stock market. Zarkozy strongly opposed that idea.
Royal raised a very strong point in regard to disabled children. She pointed out that she passed a law expanding services for disabled children and Royal suppressed it recently. He had not retort to that. This was a 20 minute discussion.
While Zarkozy make it clear he supported making the retirement age higher than 60 years old in varous ways, Royal did not present a strong position. No left view here
Here another major difference surfaced. Royal called for hiring more teachers and Zarkozy called for far less teachers. Royal also called for smaller schools for kids who are 10 11 12 13 14 years of age.
Health care a major issue in the elections was not touched on.
So while there was no Left candidate in the debate...Segolene Royal offered French voters strong centrist positions which looked very good against the very right wing Zarkozy.
Clearly, the heat will get much stronger in the coming days
Mike Tolochko, Paris