Le Pen, Macron face off in final TV showdown

Posted on May 04, 2017

PARIS -- French voters can expect verbal “hand-to-hand” combat when centrist Emmanuel Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen hold a televised debate on Thursday, May 4, their last encounter before Sunday’s run-off vote to pick the next president.

A combination picture shows portraits of Marine Le Pen (L), French National Front (FN) political party leader, and Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche!, (Onwards!). -- Reuters
Opinion polls show Mr. Macron, 39, holding a strong lead of 20 points over the National Front’s Ms. Le Pen with just four days to go to the final vote, in what is widely seen as France’s most important election in decades.

Voters are choosing between Mr. Macron, a strongly Europe-minded ex-banker who wants to cut state regulations in the economy while protecting workers, and Ms. Le Pen, a eurosceptic who wants to ditch the euro currency and impose sharp curbs on immigration.

Upwards of 20 million viewers are expected to tune in to the debate out of a voter population of close to 47 million.

Mr. Macron warned he would not pull his punches against a rival whose policies -- primarily the anti-euro strategy and a nativist anti-immigrant policy on jobs and welfare -- he says are dangerous for France.

Ms. Le Pen, who portrays Mr. Macron as a candidate of high finance masquerading as a liberal, told Reuters: “His program seems to be very vague, but in reality it is a simple continuation of (Socialist President) Francois Hollande’s government.”

Commentators said Wednesday’s debate could still have an influence, particularly on potential abstainers, many of whom voted for the candidate of the hard left who came fourth in the April 23 first round. -- Reuters