Macron and Le Pen clash in ferocious debate

By Maryse Helbert. School of Social and Political Sciences

The two remaining candidates in the French presidential election Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen have gone head-to-head in the final televised presidential debate, with just days until the final vote.

An aggressive and sometimes chaotic debate

Exchanges between Macron and Le Pen over the two-and-a-half hour debate were often aggressive and chaotic. 

Le Pen, for example, accused Macron of being "indulgent” on Islamic fundamentalism and supporting “savage globalisation” and Macron accused Le Pen of “telling lies” and fomenting “civil war”.

The first poll about the debate seems to show that Macron was more convincing than Le Pen and this feeling was largely shared in analysis on mainstream French media. Additionally, Le Monde published a ‘fact check’ just after the debate listing the incorrect information that Le Pen and Macron had provided. For Marine Le Pen, the list is very long.

Before the debate, opinion polls have consistently indicated that Macron leads 60:40. The debate will probably do little to change that situation.

Terrorism, unemployment and the EU were key topics

The policy detail of the debate suffered due to the strategy of each candidate aggressively accusing each other of the worst.

In the first half hour, Le Pen seemed to have the upper hand, mainly accusing Macron of being the candidate of “the system”. But as the debate unfolded, Macron’s strategy became clearer: he allowed Le Pen time to talk about her political agenda in detail, which highlighted its inconsistencies.

Probably the weakest moment for Le Pen was when she spoke for seven minutes (uninterrupted by Macron) about her economic plans for the Eurozone. Le Pen has made inconsistent statements about her plans in recent days. She had promised to leave the Euro immediately if elected, then three days ago, she said that she would not move quickly - there would be negotiation and then a referendum about it. Once Le Pen explained her plan, Macron deconstructed it, showing it would be hugely expensive to move back to the franc and small businesses and pensioners would be the first to pay the price.

Macron’s weakness was Le Pen’s accusation that he is a “cold” investment banker – a product of ruthless capitalism. Le Pen forcefully argued a link between Macron, current President Francois Hollande (Macron was a minister in the deeply unpopular Hollande government for a time) and “the system”. Anything which has happened in the last 30 years was put on the back of Macron: unemployment, poor economic growth and the end of French industry.

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politics; election Politics; Election national; marche National Front; En Marche