Macron and Le Pen clash in live TV debate

Henry Samuel

France’s presidential election sprang into life last night as the five main candidates sparred in a televised debate in which front-runners Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen fought for the limelight.

France’s presidential election sprang into life last night as the five main candidates sparred in a televised debate in which front-runners Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen fought for the limelight.

After being dogged by funding scandals, the campaign finally focused on policy in the three-hour debate – the first of three – whose rules had been hammered out down to chair size and time spent on cutaway shots.

There was consensus that Mr Macron (39), an unelected former economy minister who pledges to modernise France with a “neither left nor right” approach, had the most to lose.

While favourite, polls suggest millions of French voters remain unsure the former banker has safe enough hands to take on what is often dubbed one of the most powerful jobs, constitutionally speaking, in the Western world.

He sought to reassure doubters from the outset, saying: “I was a minister. I too saw what was blocking our country – rules from another age, out-of-date ways of doing things.

“The project that I carry is a project of deep political change, with new faces, new ways of doing things.”

His main challenger, Marine Le Pen, the Front National candidate, set a more aggressive tone, saying: “I want to be the president of the true French Republic. I don’t want to administrate what has become a vague region of the European Union, I don’t want to be the vice-president of [Angela] Merkel or the VIP of some multinational or big group.”

Ms Le Pen hopes the series of debates will alter the polls which currently predict that she stands virtually no chance of clinching the presidency.

With 34 days to go before the knockout round of elections, a Kantar Sofres-Onepoint poll out yesterday put Ms Le Pen on level pegging with Mr Macron on 26pc in round one, but with him then trouncing her in the run-off on around 60pc.

However, with half of French voters saying they are still undecided and a third currently intending to abstain, the stakes are high and on-air slips could radically change the pecking order.

Before the debate, Ms Le Pen’s aides dismissed Mr Macron as a “tele-evangelist” and poster boy for “globalisation” over “patriotism”. However, her tone was measured as she clearly hopes to convince voters she is no longer the bugbear of French politics after a concerted drive to shed the FN of its xenophobic reputation.

Almost three-quarters of the French are against her plan to replace the euro with the franc, with many fearing a bank run if she is elected.

Also in the debating ring were conservative nominee Francois Fillon, Socialist hopeful Benoit Hamon and Leftist firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

 

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