Hollande cleared his schedule for a full 24 hours before the debate, France 24 reported.
The 2 1/2-hour event, held on the last Wednesday before a presidential runoff, is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. local time with a television audience of about 20 million. Candidates have sparred on television in every election since 1974 except in 2002 when Jean Le Pen of the National Front made it into the runoff and President Jacques Chirac refused to share a stage with him.
A recent Ipsos Logica poll predicted Hollande would receive 53 percent of the vote in Sunday's runoff. However, Sarkozy is generally said to be a much stronger debater and he has reportedly told his staff he would "destroy" Hollande, who has spoken of wanting a "dignified" debate.
"Even though Hollande is ahead in the polls, he is going to have to be dynamic," said Stephane Rozes of CAP, a political think tank. "It is a much more dangerous situation for him than it is for Sarkozy."
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