French presidential candidates trade barbs in TV debate

This is the first time since 1974 that neither presidential candidate is from a mainstream party

French presidential candidates trade barbs in TV debate

World Bulletin / News Desk

 Presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen clashed on Wednesday evening in a heated debate ahead of the May 7 run-off. 

The two hopefuls sat opposite each other, with two journalists between them, and tackled key issues such as economy, Europe and national security in the only televised tete-a-tete debate of the campaign. 

Macron triumphed with 24.01 percent of the vote in the April 23 first round, against runner-up Le Pen’s 21.30 percent.

The 2017 election marks the first time since 1974 that neither presidential candidate is from a mainstream party.

The debate started with the far-right candidate launching an open attack on Macron.

Le Pen portrayed him as the shameless "darling of the system", a heartless and unpatriotic capitalist and a cold banker guided by outgoing president Francois Hollande.

"Mr. Macron is the candidate of wild globalisation, of uber-isation, of precariousness, of social brutality, of the war of all against all, of the economic ransacking notably of our major companies, of the dismembering of France by big economic interests, of communitarianism and all of that piloted by [French President] Hollande, who is at the helm," she said.

Macron was Hollande's top adviser on economic issues from 2012 to 2014, and served as economy minister in the president's Socialist government for two years.

The ex-investment banker later founded his own political movement, En Marche! (On the move), in April last year.

Throughout the debate, Le Pen deflected many of the questions on her platform by pointing out the mistakes of the socialist government that Macron was a part of.  

For his side, the former economy minister, who seemed more in control and organized in presenting his policies, struck back saying she was a "self-serving liar" with no program and a dangerous extremist looking to start a civil war in the country.

He described Le Pen as the candidate of fear and lies, accusing her of imitating her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

"You’re always talking about the past, but the problem is you have nothing to propose. Your strategy is simply to tell a lot of lies and go on about what isn't going right in the country," he said.

The far-right candidate defended the hard line positions of her National Front party and embraced her Eurosceptic policy.

Le Pen argued that the answer to issues regarding security, terrorism and economy was to block both legal and illegal immigration, halt admitting refugees, say goodbye to the EU and reintroduce the franc in lieu of euro.

The 48-year-old lawyer said that if elected she would propose a referendum to change the constitution in September. She said she sought the restoration of borders and the return of national sovereignty -- namely economic patriotism and protectionism.

 "The euro is the money of bankers, not the currency of the people," she said.

On the other hand, the centrist candidate, who has no experience of running for elected office, defended his pro-Europe vision and his tolerant attitude toward immigrants, refugees and Muslims.

He said Le Pen's plan to leave the EU "is lethal in terms of purchasing power, in terms of competitiveness, and in terms of France's capacity for being strong in the world".

"The euro is important. It's not just a policy. France is stronger as part of the EU," Macron said. 

A poll conducted by Elabe says 63 percent of those surveyed found Macron more convincing in Wednesday's debate.

 

Surveys trying to predict the outcome of the second-round clash between Macron and Le Pen have consistently shown the centrist candidate winning by a comfortable margin.

The new president will be formally confirmed by mid-May. The presidential vote will then be followed by two-round legislative elections in June.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Mayıs 2017, 06:07
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