Macron and Le Pen clash in the French presidential debate | French presidential election 2022

It was billed as a match between two presidential candidates – one inspiring fear and the other hate.

In the highly anticipated debate on Wednesday evening, Marine Le Pen set out to show that the French should not be afraid to give her a chance to lead the country, while Emmanuel Macron was determined to fix his image of the man the French love to hate. .

Above all, both wanted to show that they understood the daily life and concerns of their compatriots on a range of subjects including the effects of the war in Ukraine, health, pensions, Covid, Europe, taxes , immigration, ecology and cost of living. .

The two-and-a-half-hour exchange, broadcast on TV, radio and online from 9 p.m. local time, began civilly with a smiling Le Pen saying she would be the president of “respect and good sense”.

Marine Le Pen says she would ban the hijab during the French presidential debate – video

Le Pen had drawn lots to speak first and began by addressing the cost-of-living crisis, which polls show is the main concern of French voters. She spoke of cutting taxes permanently to give French families between €150 and €200 (£125 to £166) extra every month per household.

“An absolute priority for next year will be to give back their money to the French,” she said, promising to reduce VAT on fuel and energy.

Macron, looking more serious, said his approach to “people’s anger over the difficulty of making ends meet” was to freeze prices during the cost-of-living crisis as an emergency measure. “It’s more effective than a reduction in VAT,” he added. “And you voted against.”

“I want something lasting, like leaving the European electricity market, not something temporary,” Le Pen replied.

The first real clash came over wages, when Macron rejected Le Pen’s suggestion to raise wages by 10%.

“The president doesn’t decide salaries, it’s up to employers,” Macron said. “You’re trying to make people think you’re going to raise salaries by 10% and that’s not true.”

“And you try to make people believe that you will increase bonuses,” Le Pen countered.

The confrontation was a challenge for both. Le Pen couldn’t help but smile and appear to be mocking Macron as he spoke, and Macron couldn’t shake his habit of explaining policies in detail like a director.

Macron is an experienced and sharp debater, which Le Pen is not. While he struggled to correct his “incoherent” proposals with facts without sounding condescending, she relied on “amazing”, “shocking”, “unacceptable” sound bites and moving expressions, jumping from subject to subject. another and wading over the details.

There were the expected hot topics: Macron mentioned Russia, saying Le Pen’s high-profile loan from a Kremlin-linked Russian bank made her “dependent” and influenced her political decisions.

“You cannot defend the interests of France because your interests are linked to the Russian powers,” Macron said. “In 2015, you took out a loan from a Russian bank and you still haven’t repaid it.” This prompted Le Pen, a cat breeder in her spare time, to show her claws. “He knows that I am a free woman, I am a patriot. I have always defended France and the French. Always and in all circumstances,” she said.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen clash over Russia in the leadership debate – video

The exchange also covered France’s future relations with the European Union. Le Pen said she wanted to stay in the EU but create an alliance of European nations, which would sideline the European Commission. Macron said it was the equivalent of stealth Frexit.

Le Pen said: “You have a narrow view of France as a continental power, but it should become a world power again.

The debate, although heated, became increasingly testy and combative. When Macron called Le Pen a “climate skeptic”, she hit back by calling him a “climate hypocrite”.

“Stop confusing everything, Madame Le Pen,” he said. “Stop giving lessons to Mr. Macron,” she retorted.

With everything to gain or lose, Macron, 44, had to avoid appearing arrogant and principal and Le Pen, 53, had to appear calm, credible and above all moderate to win over the 40% of floating voters who neither supported the neither in the first round 10 days ago, especially the 7.7 million who voted for the radical left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The face-to-face was moderated by two journalists well known to the French public, and each candidate had equal time to answer questions on various subjects and their policies. The debate has been a big event in French presidential elections since it was introduced in 1974. Only Jacques Chirac refused to debate his second-round rival, far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, in 2002. saying do it. would legitimize Le Pen’s extreme views.

After a disastrous performance in the 2017 presidential debate, Le Pen was much better prepared this time around. She was advised to play the mother of the nation – advice she didn’t follow in 2017.

Five years later, Macron is no longer the political upstart and has been able to carry his case with the weight of presidential experience, but with mixed results.

Other thorny issues were Le Pen’s plans to ban the Islamic headscarf in public places, exempt people under 30 from income tax and hold a referendum to circumvent the constitution in order to crack down immigration and to introduce French nationalist policies first for jobs, benefits and health care. .

Le Pen was more comfortable on her specialist subject, crime and insecurity: she lamented the increased “barbarism” in the country and blamed it on “anarchic and massive immigration”. She promised to “rearm the police” and to toughen up the judicial system by creating 25,000 additional prison places. “I have a lot to say on this matter,” she said when reminded of her deadline.

Macron said he had already created thousands of new police and gendarmes and promised to reform the judicial and prison systems.

Allowed to return to the subject, Le Pen promised to tackle Islamic extremism with a new law and called for a “Republic proud of itself and not ashamed”. Radical mosques had to be closed and migrants deemed a security risk expelled. “I am for the ban on the headscarf in public space, it is a uniform imposed by Islamist extremists,” she added.

Macron replied: “What is worrying is that you go from terrorism to Islam and foreigners, you confuse all the issues. In the city, what you say will cause a civil war. This is very serious.”

Much of the debate was technical. The issue of pensions and the official retirement age is an extremely complicated issue that is difficult to clarify in a televised clash.

The debate lasted 20 minutes in two and a half hours. It ended on a remarkably civilized note. Macron ended by thanking Le Pen for the debate saying “I respect you as a person…although we have heartfelt disagreements.”

Le Pen chose a more vigorous summary, highlighting his program “for the French, for all the French”.

The latest Ipsos opinion poll suggests Macron has a 12-point lead over Le Pen for the second-round vote, with him winning with 56% and she with 44%, with a margin of error of 1.1. %. However, 13% of those voters did not specify who they would vote for. Of those who said they would abstain or vote blank, 43% said they might change their minds that day.

A survey carried out by BFMTV among a sample of its viewers revealed that 59% found Macron convincing while 39% were won over by Le Pen.

This article was updated on April 22, 2022 because an earlier version mistranslated a quote from Macron as referring to “les cités”, when he was referring to “la cité”, i.e. the city.

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