French rightwing presidential favourite Francois Fillon struck a confident tone ahead of a final televised debate Thursday with his rival for the Republicans party nomination, Alain Juppe.
The contest between the two ex-premiers has taken a bitter turn, leading more than 200 Republicans lawmakers to publish a pro-Fillon column urging a more civilised discussion.
Whoever wins the primary is widely tipped to become next president after elections in April and May against a resurgent far-right National Front (FN) and weakened Socialist Party.
A poll published on Wednesday showed Fillon would win 65 percent of votes in the final primary vote on Sunday against 35 percent for the more centrist Juppe.
"I'm holding the line and am keeping a cool head, but by the look of things there's powerful momentum that has been unleashed," Fillon, a social conservative with bold economic reform plans.
Polls for the first round, however, failed to forecast Fillon as the overwhelming winner as he surged past Juppe and former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who was knocked out.
Juppe, a centrist 71-year-old who wants a "happy identity" for demoralised France, is banking on a strong showing in Thursday night's debate when he hopes to highlight his differences with Fillon.
The two men disagree on public sector job cuts — 500,000 for Fillon, 200,000-300,000 for Juppe — and foreign policies, where Fillon favours a softer line with Russia and an alliance with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
Fillon, a devout Catholic, is also more socially conservative, opposing full adoption by gay couples. He also takes a harder line on Islam and the danger it poses to France.
Fillon wrote in his book "Beating Islamic Totalitarianism" that "the bloody invasion of Islamism in our daily lives could herald a third world war."Juppe by contrast has campaigned as a unifier.
"There are two currents today: a divisive right and a right that brings us together," he told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview published Thursday.
But three days from voting, Juppe stands accused of aiming low blows against his rival in his bid to reverse the dynamic of the race.
On Tuesday, he questioned Fillon's views on abortion — as a Catholic, Fillon says he is personally opposed, but will not change the law — leading to an unexpected intrusion of religion into the campaign.
Regardless of France's staunchly common laws and worries about the place of Islam in the republic, the hopefuls have both contended to demonstrate their closeness to the lessons of Pope Francis.
"The impact of religion in the challenge amongst Juppe and Fillon is stressing," said the leftwing Liberation daily paper on Thursday by a front-page feature expressing "Watch out, Jesus is returning!"
A segment distributed on Thursday in the preservationist day by day Le Figaro, marked by 215 Republicans legislators, including the leader of their gatherings in the lower and upper places of parliament, required a "forthcoming yet aware level headed discussion from both sides".
They likewise scrutinized Juppe's assaults on Fillon's monetary program, which Juppe has called "ultraliberal" – an affront signifying "ultra-industrialist" in French legislative issues – and "fierce" in its extension.
– Le Pen anticipates –
After Donald Trump's shocking achievement in the United States, intrigue has surged in France's race where standard legislators are additionally trying to fight off a test from a far-right applicant.
Marine Le Pen from the National Front is presently conjecture to start things out or second in the opening round of the race on April 23 with around 30 percent of the vote, yet then bomb in the keep running off on May 7.
Be that as it may, the hardline French patriot is planning to accumulate energy after Trump's prosperity, pitching a comparable hostile to world class, against movement and hostile to globalization message.
Le Pen says she needs to discard the euro and arrange a choice on France's participation of European Union – a move that would put the eventual fate of European coordination in question.