START TO FIN­ISH’

New Straits Times - - World - EM­MANUEL MACRON

had “put for­ward a vi­sion for the im­por­tant role that France plays in Europe and around the world”.

The ri­vals were at each other’s throats again af­ter the de­bate, with Le Pen de­fend­ing the ag­gres­sive tone of the de­bate by ar­gu­ing that she had tried to “lift the veil... on who Mis­ter Macron is” and he again ac­cused her of ly­ing con­stantly.

“He presents him­self as a new man who emerged from nowhere... when in fact, he emerged from (Pres­i­dent) Fran­cois Hol­lande’s gov­ern­ment,” Le Pen said in a TV in­ter­view. Macron told France In­ter ra­dio: “You can’t choke off all of the lies but you can kill off some of them.”

He filed a le­gal com­plaint af­ter Le Pen im­plied dur­ing the de­bate that he had an “off­shore ac­count in the Ba­hamas”.

“We will not hes­i­tate to pros­e­cute for defama­tion any­one who re­peats this false information,” an aide to Macron said.

The ag­gres­sive and of­ten un­ruly de­bate shocked many ob­servers.

“It is mis­lead­ing to call that fist fight a de­bate,” an editorial in the right-lean­ing Fi­garo news­pa­per said. Le Monde said it had been “bru­tal” and “vi­o­lent from start to fin­ish”.

For­mer So­cial­ist prime min­is­ter Manuel Valls, who is back­ing Macron, said Le Pen “showed her true face” in the de­bate and “it’s wor­ry­ing”.

The de­bate was prob­a­bly Le Pen’s last chance to change the dy­nam­ics of the race ahead of the fi­nal week­end of a long and un­pre­dictable cam­paign.

Le Pen tried to por­tray Macron as be­ing soft on Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ism, play­ing to the con­cerns of many of her sup­port­ers.

Many sup­port­ers of can­di­date Jean-Luc Me­len­chon, who came fourth in the first round, have said they will not vote on Sun­day, com­par­ing the fi­nal round as a choice be­tween “the plague and cholera”. AFP

You can’t choke off all of the lies but you can kill off some of them.

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