Far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, renewed her attacks on the European model of immigration, budget controls, and currency union.
National Front leader Le Pen, who pollsters expect to reach the second round of voting, stuck closely to her party’s traditional themes in an hour-long radio interview.
Socialist contenders including former prime minister Manuel Valls and former education minister Vincent Peillon held press conferences setting out their policy programmes, while the Republican frontrunner Francois Fillon also set out his stall.
“The French want less Europe and more France,” Ms Le Pen said, promising a referendum on France’s relations with the EU within six months of taking office if elected.
With the two-round election scheduled for April 23 and May 7, the candidates have about four months to make their cases to voters worried about terrorism, immigration and a lacklustre economy.
Mr Fillon, who ran the government for five years under former president Nicolas Sarkozy, has shown a consistent lead in the polls since winning the Republicans’ nomination in November.
He would win between 26% and 29% of the votes in the first round and Ms Le Pen would get between 24% and 25%, an Ipsos Sopra Steria poll showed.
Former industry minister Arnaud Montebourg — who, like Mr Valls and Mr Peillon, is running in the Socialist Party’s primary later this month — also attacked the European consensus on economic policy, blaming spending cuts, rather than worker protection, for France’s unemployment problem.
The Socialist primary will be the next major development in the campaign, with seven candidates competing over two rounds on January 22 and 29.
Five years in power helped make the current Socialist president, Francois Hollande, the least popular head of state in half a century and the first not to seek a second mandate. Now the Socialists have a battle just to stay in the race.