A three-hour-debate and a balanced match in which we’ve seen an offensive candidate and another on the defensive. This is the conclusion I draw the debate of yesterday between François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy.
The two finalists for the French presidency wanted to have a fight apparently and to show they were able to lead the fifth power of the world. They didn’t hesitate to fight back and do each other favours in order to another can clearly dominate the other and get a precious advantage on the 6th of May final choice.
François Hollande, the socialist frontrunner, clearly affirmed he wanted to rule France, demonstrating he mastered the issues. In other to delete the last doubts of some people, he had to take some risks in spite of good and encouraging opinion polls. Thus, he put his presidential manifesto and his vision of France forward, facing Nicolas Sarkozy with his responsibilities and an outcome he is constrained and forced to assume.
On his side, the outgoing president counted on the presidential debate to defeat his socialist challenger, reputed weak and wimp. The UMP candidate also counted on his orator talents to make the difference and why not, getting a decisive advantage on the French people’s final choice. Nonetheless, Nicolas Sarkozy was perceived as having major difficult to draw and introduce a project and a clear vision of France. Moreover, he was unable to defend his outcome insofar as he is uncomfortable with it and to assume.
Nicolas Sarkozy probably underestimated his challenger, better pugnacious and precise on his propositions and targets, maybe the proof he had better prepared the confrontation than the outgoing president (at least, he took the debate seriously). The situation gives some interesting moments as the one in which Nicolas Sarkozy refused to say if Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian president of the Council, was member of the European People’s Party (the European right) or not or the one in which François Hollande introduces his vision of the French presidency. This sequence summarized the atmosphere and the skate of the debate: François Hollande was determined and reinforces his presidential stature compared with Nicolas Sarkozy who gives in and does not dare to contradict although he has the opportunity to do it as outgoing president and candidate running for a new term!
A presidential debate – especially in France – never determined the outcome of an election and we can think the yesterday confrontation will have little impact on the voters who more or less made their decision. Nonetheless, he seems clear François Hollande dominated his confrontation and managed to introduce his manifesto and trap Nicolas Sarkozy in his approximations both, the current president being on the defensive and lacking confidence as he just discovered an exercise in which he gave a good impression five years ago.
That probably explains the large satisfaction of the François Hollande’s activists and the heavy heart of the Nicolas Sarkozy’s supporters after the debate. As I just wrote, a debate does not determine the outcome of an election but gives some precious indications on the state of spirit of everyone and focuses the attention, what François Hollande was able to do remarkably with his “I, as president of the Republic”