French presidential candidates, socio-liberal Emmanuel Macron and far right Marine Le Pen, were engaged in a “brutal” televised debate three days ahead of the presidential runoff polls, a media report said.
France has never before experienced such a “harsh” debate between any two candidates for the Elysee, like the one on Wednesday for the May 7 poll, Efe news reported.
It was the first time that a far-right candidate took part in a face-to-face presidential runoff since the 2002 elections, when Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father, stood against Jacques Chirac.
Polls held immediately afterwards suggested that Le Pen lost the debate.
She opened the debate by directly attacking her rival, calling him the candidate of “the world of finance” and the heir to the current government and calling herself “the candidate of the people”.
Macron hit back by saying Le Pen is a “parasite” and a “liar”. The debate continued without sparing insults.
Le Pen accused Macron of being under the influence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, claiming at the end of the debate that it does not matter who wwould win the Sunday elections because “France will be led by a woman – either me or Merkel.”
Macron also said that Le Pen is the candidate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, to which she replied that France should be “equidistant” from both Russia and the US.
Le Pen struggled to link Macron with the failures of the policies conducted so far in France, clinging to the fact that he was the Economy Minister between 2014 and 2016.
She accused the European Union of impeding the economic development of France and proposed her recipes of patriotism and nationalization; her main campaigning policies which allowed her to reach the runoff round, 15 years after her father did in 2002.
Macron considered her policies unreal and proposed reforming the country to make it more competitive, while pledging to promote a Europe that protects its citizens.
The debate reached its peak when the candidates spoke of the fight against terrorism.
The far-right candidate accused Macron of “being complacent with Islamic fundamentalism,” to which the socio-liberal responded that extremists want nothing more than the victory of Le Pen
He said, in his view, the terrorists “seek radicalisation and civil war”, to which Le Pen would lead the country.
As for the European Union topic, Le Pen said that leaving the organisation would save the country with the money that belonged to the French people.
Macron, however, argued that France’s contribution to the EU was low and the nation would not achieve the savings by leaving the EU, as the current Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK have already shown.
For Macron, leaving the Eurozone would lead to a loss of competitiveness of the French economy and this would increase the country’s debts