Macron and Le Pen exchange insults in TV election battle

Snap opinion poll shows 63 per cent of viewers found Macron more convincing

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron clashed over their vision of France's future, the euro and ways of fighting terrorism in an ill-tempered televised debate on French TV. Video: Reuters

 

Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, the finalists in Sunday’s French presidential election, attacked one another from the first moments of their television debate on Wednesday night.

Calling herself “the candidate of the people of France as we love it”, Ms Le Pen, the leader of the extreme right wing Front National, accused the outgoing administration, which Mr Macron served, for having chosen what she called “savage globalisation, Uberisation, precariousness and the war of all against all”.

A snap opinion poll by Elabe for BFMTV showed 63 per cent of viewers found Mr Macron more convincing than Le Pen in the debate.

Ms Le Pen, who opinion polls predict will win about 40 per cent of the vote on Sunday, promised to protect workers against unfair competition and to tackle Islamic fundamentalism.

Opinion polls indicate Mr Macron, a centrist, will win about 60 per cent of the vote. He said Ms Le Pen’s remarks “lacked finesse” and showed she did not want a democratic debate.

Heiress

He addressed her as “the heiress of the extreme right, who has prospered on the anger of the French for so many year”.

Mr Macron accused Ms Le Pen of representing “the spirit of defeat” in the face of globalisation, Europe and terrorism. “I carry the spirit of French conquest,” he said.

“Your strategy is to tell a lot of lies and say everything that is wrong with the country, but you don’t propose anything,” Mr Macron said.

In an apparent allusion to his wife Brigitte, who is nearly 25 years his senior, and who was Mr Macron’s drama coach when he was a teenager, Ms Le Pen said: “You’re trying to play student and teacher with me. It’s not my thing.”

Ms Le Pen promised to “get the French people’s money back” from the EU.

“I take the French for adults. I don’t lie to them. You lie to them all the time,” Mr Macron said. “The day you get your €6 billion from the EU, you’ll first have to pay what you owe. The UK has €60-€80 billion to pay.”

Ms Le Pen accused Mr Macron of being lax on terrorism.

He quoted an Islamist leader who hoped Ms Le Pen would come to power. She would “sow trouble” and create “a risk of civil war”, he said.