Macron, Le Pen go head-to-head in a televised debate before Sunday’s vote
THE battle to become France’s next president boils down to a clash of contrasting visions. In one corner is centrist Emmanuel Macron, with his pro-globalisation, pro-European Union world view.
In the other, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who champions “nationalism” and a “France-first” approach.
“The country Macron wants is no longer France. It’s a space, a wasteland, a trading room where there are only consumers and producers,” she told thousands of supporters in Nice recently.
Macron has a different message: “I will be the voice of hope for our country and Europe.”
They were scheduled to go head-to-head yesterday in a televised debate, in which sparks were sure to fly as they fight their corner in a last encounter before Sunday’s runoff vote.
Polls still show Macron, 39, holding a strong lead of 20 points over Le Pen, with just four days to the final vote, in what is widely seen as France’s most important election in decades.
Voters are choosing between Macron, a strongly Europe-minded ex-banker who wants to cut state regulations in the economy while protecting workers, and Le Pen, a Eurosceptic who wants to ditch the Euro currency and impose curbs on immigration.
Though Le Pen has a mountain to climb to catch Macron, the campaign for the Elysee has been packed with surprises. The exchanges between the two have become sharper and Le Pen has shown she is capable of catching him out with clever public relations manoeuvring.
Macron warned he would not pull any punches during the televised encounter against a rival whose policies, he said, were dangerous for France.
“I am not going to employ invective. I am not going to use cliches or insults. I’ll use hand-tohand fighting to demonstrate that her ideas represent false solutions,” he told BFM TV.
Le Pen, who portrays Macron as a candidate of high finance masquerading as a liberal, said: “I shall be defending my ideas. He will be defending the posture that he has adopted.”
“His programme seems to be vague, but in reality, it is a simple continuation of President Francois Hollande’s government,” she said on Tuesday.
An Elabe poll for BFM TV and
L’Express on Tuesday showed Macron winning 59 per cent of the votes in the second round versus 41 per cent for Le Pen.
Commentators said yesterday’s debate could still have an influence, particularly on potential abstainers, many of whom voted for the candidate of the hard left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came fourth in the April 23 first round.
The studio, where French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will take part in a televised debate, in La Plaine Saint Denis, outside Paris.