The two men battling it out to become French president have faced up to each other in a much anticipated television debate.
With just days to go until the second and decisive round of the presidential poll, socialist Francois Hollande was quick to grill incumbent conservative Nicolas Sarkozy on the number of people out of work.
“The jobless rate has gone up. If you take into account all of the people who are on lists, the rise is more than one million. This means there are four million people recorded,” Hollande said.
“If you look at the number of people who do not have any work at all, there are three million jobless in our country, this is a rise of 700,000. This is a lot, this is extreme, this is a record high,” he continued.
“So, Nicolas Sarkozy, you said in 2007, that if the jobless rate does not go down to five percent of the active population, you would consider that as a failure. It’s a failure.”
Sarkozy replied: “I will respond to you on the figures that you have given. They are false. And I will give you the proof.
“This is important for those who listen to us, let’s take the figures of the International Labour Office, the number of jobless shows a rise of 422,000 between 2007 and 2011 which is too much. This is a rise of 18.7 percent. These international figures can be compared with other countries during the same period with the same criteria.”
According to the polls, Sarkozy is trailing six to ten points behind Hollande.
But the televised duel was seen as crucial for both camps, as French voters make up their minds ahead of Sunday’s election runoff.