French Socialist presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande vowed Thursday to "dominate finance" if elected this month, after warnings from the right that his victory would spark market panic.
Hollande is on course to unseat right-wing incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy in the vote to choose the powerful leader of the eurozone's second economy, which will be conducted over two rounds on April 22 and May 6.
But with his lead over Sarkozy shrinking and Communist-backed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon rising in the polls, Hollande has looked to cement his left-wing credentials.
But Hollande, who once famously referred to the world of finance as the "enemy", hit back hard, accusing Sarkozy of racking up debt and of allowing France to be bullied by the world of finance.
He said he would fight "speculation" and work with France's EU partners to better regulate markets, rather that surrendering to them as he alleged Sarkozy has done since his election in 2007.
"What I want is for us to show, France but also Europe, that we have a shared capacity to dominate finance," Hollande said on public television.
"And if the markets are worried... I will tell them here and now that I will leave them no space to act," he said.
Hollande also dismissed fears his election would trigger a speculative attack on the euro, noting that he has been the poll frontrunner for months so markets have had time to get used to the idea of him as president.
"It's the outgoing president who brought the country to the situation it is in. Public debt has grown by 600 billion euros ($787 billion), we've lost our triple-A credit rating and we have a trade deficit of 70 billion euros.
"And now he comes to tell us: 'Watch out, it could be even worse if someone else was in charge'? Well, no it couldn't," he said.
Hollande is running on a traditional Socialist platform, vowing to boost taxes on the wealthy and increase spending, including with the hiring of tens of thousands of state employees.
He has lashed out at the right's fixation on austerity, vowing instead to focus on economic recovery through growth.
But he has said he will eliminate France's budget deficit by 2017, only a year later than Sarkozy is promising.
Hollande has also threatened to re-open talks on the fiscal pact that European Union members have signed committing them to tough debt-reduction measures in a bid to restore confidence in the single-currency bloc.
Sarkozy has accused his opponent of being fiscally irresponsible and is keen to persuade voters that he is the best man to win market confidence and get the economy back on track.
Ten candidates will stand for president on April 22, then the two frontrunners will face a run-off on May 6. Legislative elections will follow in June.
After being behind in polls early in the race, seasoned campaigner Sarkozy has gained ground in recent weeks and moved ahead in first-round voter intentions. But Hollande remains the clear favourite in the second round.
Three polls released this week showed Sarkozy ahead in the first round with 28 to 29 percent of the vote, followed by Hollande with 27 to 28.5 percent.
The polls all forecast Hollande would win in the second round, with 53 to 55 percent of the vote.
Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen of the National Front was third with 15 to 16.5 percent followed by the Left Front's Melenchon with 13 to 14.5 percent.
Source: AFP Global Edition