Macron and Le Pen clashed fiercely against Russia, the European Union and economic figures

The two finalists in the French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, engaged in heated exchanges from the first minutes of the debate, which led to fierce clashes on Wednesday night, especially between Russia and the European Union. AFP.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le PenPhoto: Myriam Tirler / AFP / Profimedia Images

After exchanging a brief handshake and a small smile upon their arrival on TF1 and France 2, the centrist president and far-right candidate (Rassemblement National) quickly launched the first allegations, attacking Le Pen Emmanuel Macron’s balance sheet. He was stupid, and the latter accused his rival of proposing a “no tail and no head” scheme.

With regard to the purchasing power of the French, the two candidates expressed their disagreement on the measures taken over the past five years and the consequences of the actions that would follow in their campaign plans, in exchanges with various numbers.

“I have heard you and your government rejoice that you have increased the purchasing power of the French, but I have seen the French tell me that they are no longer good and can no longer cope,” he said. Before Le Pen mocked Mozart as “the worst economic balance” and the “worst social balance” ever.

The tone of the debate was further heightened when the two enemies talked about the conflict that had ravaged Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24.

“I think you were one of the first European politicians to recognize the effect of the annexation of Crimea in 2014,” Macron said, referring to Moscow’s unrecognized international annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula by the international community.

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“Why did you do that? (…) because you depend on Russian power and you depend on Mr. Putin,” he added, referring to the 9 million euro loan taken by the far-right party in 2017. Pen from the Bank of Russia.

“I’m a completely independent woman,” her rival replied, adding that at the time no French bank had lent her money and that she had “no obligation other than to repay the loan.”

“I support an independent Ukraine that is not subject to the United States, the European Union or Russia, and that is my position,” he added.

As the exchanges intensified over the EU issue, Le Pen denied allegations that he wanted France to leave the camp.

“I want to create this European system,” Le Pen said.

The fight was repeated in 2017, and some left-wing voters, especially those who voted for the far-left third-place candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, were reluctant or absent.

Usually, the debate does not disrupt the dynamics of voting intentions. But this time, it reshuffled some voters and “moved more votes than we have seen since the beginning of the Fifth Republic,” said Bryce Dendourier, deputy director general of the Ipsos polling station in 1958.

Slight difference in opinion polls than in 2017

Marine Le Pen “plays on people’s emotions, even if it’s simple,” and Emmanuel Macron “brings it back to reality, even if it seems like it,” political scientist Chloe Morin said on Twitter.

Four days before the second round, polls put Macron ahead with 54 to 56.5% of the vote, up from 43.5 to 46% for the far-right candidate. In 2017, Macron won by a very small margin of 66% of the vote.

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Five years ago, Le Pen immersed himself live in the presence of 16.5 million viewers of the debate, at which time a young candidate was aggressive, unprepared, calm and well-versed in his homework.

Differences at all levels

But he recovered patiently, worked on his projects, softened his image, and became actively prepared for discussion. The president, on the other hand, no longer has the benefit of the doubt and must defend the results of his five-year term, which has been criticized.

Except for international issues, the position of the two candidates differs in almost every area: from retirement to ecology. Emmanuel Macron accused Le Pen of being a “climate skeptic”, the latter of whom he responded to as a “climate hypocrite”.

In an effort to expand their electoral base, both candidates have changed some of their key proposals in recent days: banning the wearing of headscarves in public places is no longer a priority for Marine Le Pen, and his retirement will be raised to 64. 65, first proposed by Emmanuel Macron, who promised environmental voters in a gesture that a prime minister would be “directly responsible for environmental planning”.

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