Published: Wed, March 22, 2017
Finance | By Laverne Griffith

France's Macron passes first of three big tests

France's Macron passes first of three big tests

The five main aspirants to the presidency appeared for more than three hours in the first debate before elections, only a month away from the first round of the voting. 'The trap you are falling into, Madame Le Pen, with your provocations is to divide society, ' he said. Leading opinion polls have suggested Le Pen has a slight edge over Macron, Sky News reported.

Socialist candidate Hamon, 49, attracted a crowd of 20,000 to a Paris rally on Sunday, but with his staunchly leftist platform he is seen by many as representing the rump of a party in disarray.

The sparring between Le Pen and Macron led to the tensest moments in a debate that all-but avoided the issue of Le Pen's fake jobs case in the European Parliament, as well as the inquiry against Fillon for alleged parliamentary fake jobs for his wife and children.

So what was the conclusion?

A snap opinion poll showed Macron, a 39-year-old former economy minister who has never run for public office before, was the most convincing among the top five contenders in a marathon debate of almost 3½ that delivered no knock-outs.

Macron, a former economics minister with limited experience in public office, has cast himself as a centrist alternative to France's traditional left-right politics. Given that he was expected to be the main punchbag the En Marche candidate will just be happy to emerge fairly unscathed.

She said they had also discussed Libya, and she again condemned France's role in helping to oust its longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, which she called "a serious mistake ... with serious consequences". "Totally empty", she said.

Le Pen said the garment was a sign of the "rise of radical Islam in our country" and accused Macron of supporting it.

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Macron occasionally used humor to defuse Le Pen's attacks.

All 11 contenders will take part in another debate on April 4.

This spoof tweet warning the public that Fillon had been kidnapped after disappearing from the debate was one of many mocking the scandal-hit candidate for going missing.

Commentators agreed, however, that neither landed a knockout blow.

He is running out of time to close the gap on Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, both of whom, polls say, will reach the crucial second round run-off vote on May 7th.

Le Canard Enchaine, the newspaper which broke the allegations about the jobs for Fillon's relatives, reported in its latest edition that a Lebanese billionaire paid a company owned by Fillon $50,000 in 2015 to arrange introductions to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne.

As the programme started, candidates noted the "undemocratic" absence of the six other candidates, who had not been invited to the debate by TF1 producers.

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