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French debate captivates 18 million, boosts Hollande (+video)

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Sarkozy presented himself Iast night as the leader who averted the economic fate of Greece and Spain and drew France back from the precipice of chaos. He vowed he would make the country competitive again. He also promised to cut immigration from 180,000 to 90,000 a year. 

But Hollande, as challenger, used Sarkozy’s record and perceived hubris against him.

"With you, it's very simple, it is never your fault,” Hollande said, looking straight at Sarkozy. “You always have a scapegoat. Now, you're saying on education, ‘It's not me, it's the regions. On job training, ‘I can't do anything.’ On unemployment, ‘It's not me, it's the crisis that hit us.’ You talked about 5 percent unemployment, it's now 10 percent… It’s not your fault, it's the crisis' fault, never yours."

Hollande promised to “change the direction of Europe” through policies of growth that would supplement the austerity measures that been touted as the remedy for the ongoing eurozone crisis.

Local media portrayed last night as the night that Hollande was finally seen as a possible leader of France.

“If there is one point in which the lines have moved, it is the image of Francois Hollande as a leader,” opined the highest circulation newspaper, West France. “Hollande needed to show he was capable of presidential stature and on that field he scored points,” offered Nord Éclair, located in Lille. 

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