France’s Socialist Party has become the first to hold a US-style televised debate between its presidential hopefuls. The three candidates went head to head to answer ten identical questions. The rigid format was meant to avoid confrontation and further divisions in the ranks. Economic and social issues topped the agenda. Observers say the long-time frontrunner Segolene Royal skirted around the more contentious issues, including the future of the 35-hour week.
Her more experienced rival, former Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said:
“At the end of the day, let’s look ahead to next April. The right has had no debate, and will head into the election as a divided party. We have had a debate and we will arrive at the ballot united.”
Former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius claims to represent the “real Left” of the Socialist Party. But he trails both of his rivals in the polls.
Lasting less than two hours, the debate took place a month away from the first round vote to choose a presidential candidate. A second round will be held on the 23rd of November. The presidential election is in April 2007.