France’s remaining two candidates for the Socialist party’s presidential nomination have clashed over the credibility of their manifestos on prime time television.
A snap poll after their debate suggested rebel ex-minister Benoit Hamon had come out ahead of his former boss, ex-prime minister Manuel Valls.
From the very start the two went on the attack over their respective spending plans. Pro-business Valls leaning more towards balancing the books.
“Our spending is indeed already high. We accept expenditure on certain things because we have to protect people, care for them and educate them, but there’s a problem of credibility. It’s not just about making people dream, it’s also about being credible and we are credible when we’re in government,” said Valls.
“I’ve said clearly that I don’t want to raise taxes because I accept that we have to give up on the dogma of public deficit 3 percent and — according to the recommendations of economists — give up on austerity fast,” declared Hamon.
With the US currently dominating international politics, there was more consensus between the two on foreign policy with both appearing sceptical about the new man in the White House.
Valls said Europe must not be naive:
“We must not be taken by surprise by a hypothetical alliance, and we have the right to be worried about it, between the American president and Russian president. So we need to have a conference on defense questions. And France will be a leader of this.”
Hamon focused on what he called “a new element of instability”:
“We already had one with Vladimir Putin. Now we have a second one with Donald Trump, because he is reconsidering the most essential agreement, the COP 21 (2015 Paris Climate Conference). More than that he says he is hostile to European construction. What must we think about this? To me close ranks at the European level.”
Sunday’s run-off (Jan 29) will decide who will contest France’s April-May presidential election. However polls suggest neither stands much chance of getting past the first round after five years of unpopular rule by Francois Hollande.