PARIS - Nicolas Sarkozy has made a last-ditch effort to revive his struggling re-election bid on Wednesday, branding Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande a "liar" in the campaign's only live television debate.
Both men came out in determined mood as the debate kicked off, with Hollande accusing Sarkozy of dividing the French and vowing if he wins on Sunday he would be a "president who brings people together".
"I will be a president of justice because we are going through a difficult crisis, a serious crisis that hits the most humble among us, so I want justice to be at the heart of the republic," Hollande said.
Sarkozy said voters were facing a "historic choice" and: "France cannot make a mistake - we are not in a crisis, we are in many crises."
Polls show Hollande, 57, is the favourite to win in Sunday's run-off vote after he came out ahead of Sarkozy in an April 22 first round that left eight other candidates behind.
The debate turned quickly to the economy, with tensions rising as the two candidates sought to speak over each other.
"Our unemployment has risen, our competitiveness has worsened and Germany is doing better than we are," Hollande said, slamming Sarkozy's economic record. "Why is Germany doing better than us? Because Germany has done the opposite of the policies you are proposing to the French people," Sarkozy hit back.