Macron, Le Pen to square off in pre-election TV debate

Source:Reuters Published: 2017/5/4 0:04:11

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 Wednesday night, their last encounter before Sunday's run-off vote to pick the next president.

Opinion polls show Macron, 39, holding a strong lead of 20 points over the National Front's 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 Macron, a strongly Europe-minded ex-banker who wants to cut state regulations in the economy while protecting workers, and Le Pen, a eurosceptic who wants to ditch the euro currency and impose sharp curbs on immigration.

Macron finished only three points ahead of Le Pen in the first round on April 23, but he is widely expected now to pick up the bulk of votes from the Socialists and the center-right whose candidates were eliminated.

Though Le Pen has a mountain to climb to catch Macron, the campaign has been packed with surprises, the exchanges between the two have become noticeably sharper and the 48-year-old National Front veteran has shown she is capable of catching him out with clever public relations maneuvering.

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

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.

"I am not going to employ invective. I am not going to use cliches or insults. I'll use hand-to-hand fighting to demonstrate that her ideas represent false solutions," he told BFM TV.


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