French candidates face off in first debate

Mar 22, 2017, 00:38

French candidate Emmanuel Macron was seen as the most convincing among the top five candidates after the first televised debate of the presidential race.

At the start of the debate, Macron, the 39-year-old former economy minister who has never run for election before, seemed subdued, perhaps more used to making speeches alone on stage than debating rivals.

Opponents of the European Union have been salivating over the prospect of the far right's Marine Le Pen winning the presidency, given her promise to hold a referendum on France's European Union membership that could swiftly undo the whole project.

Fillon, a one-time front-runner who has fallen back over by a scandal surrounding the employment of his wife as a parliamentary assistant, has been put under formal investigation, a first for a French presidential candidate. Among her foreign policy objectives Le Pen has called for closer cooperation in Syria with President Bashar al-Assad and a rapprochement with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Le Pen's aides say she will tear into his "globalist" programme, while Hamon on Sunday gave a taste of his plan of attack against Macron, casting the former Rothschild banker as the candidate of the elite.

But Mr Macron said it is important that there is a "realistic" politics when it comes to migration as well as reducing the time it takes for people seeking asylum.

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The French politician's anti-immigration stance make her unpopular in most of French-speaking Africa.

He said he disagreed with Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron for supporting the lenient immigration policies that Germany has. He really needed to do well in this debate, trying to revive this campaign after weeks of legal woes and allegations.

The election is taking place against a backdrop of high unemployment and sluggish growth. "There are borders that have been established in a way, unacceptable for people", he said. This broadcaster also cited opinion polls that show Le Pen was poised to win the first round, but that Macron would win the presidency in the runoff.

A total of 11 candidates, spanning the spectrum from the Trotskyist left to the far right, are running for president. "But I have experience", Mr Fillon told viewers.

"Marine Le Pen has arrived in N'Djamena and is continuing to Amdjarass about 900 kilometres to the east where she will be received this afternoon at her initiative by President Deby", a spokesman for the Chadian president said.

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