Wednesday. 24.04.2024
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Macron and Le Pen face off in heated TV debate with mutual attacks

Macron announced increases in pensions and the minimum wage, as well as a cap on gas and electricity prices, while Le Pen proposed reducing the VAT on energy and eliminating taxes on 100 basic everyday products

ILLUSTRATION - 08 April 2022, Bavaria, Nuremberg: Election documents of French presidential candidates such as Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Photo: Daniel Karmann/dpa.
Election documents of French presidential candidates such as Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Photo: Daniel Karmann/dpa.

French president Emmanuel Macron and his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen faced off in a heated TV debate Wednesday evening four days before the final round of the French presidential election.

Both Macron and Le Pen were at pains to come across as reasonable and fair, but mutual attacks increased in the course of their two-and-a-half-hour duel.

Le Pen presented herself as the advocate of average people. Macron, who is running for a second term, was often the more active party in the debate and also acknowledged mistakes and omissions in the past term.

They discussed pocketbook issues of interest to everyone including purchasing power, wages and pensions.

Macron announced increases in pensions and the minimum wage, as well as a cap on gas and electricity prices.

Le Pen proposed reducing the VAT on energy and eliminating taxes on 100 basic everyday products.

When it came to the issue of pensions, which has been the subject of repeated debates in France, Le Pen insisted on retiring at the age of 60 to 62.

"Retirement at 65 is an absolute injustice," Le Pen said of Macron's plan for a higher retirement age.

Macron emphasized that a pension from the age of 65 should not apply to all employees, with the exception of people in particularly strenuous jobs.

Macron emphasized that France remains anchored in the European Union and reiterated its commitment to Franco-German cooperation.

He accused Le Pen of wanting to leave the EU, as she did during her 2017 presidential candidacy.

Le Pen responded that if she wanted to get out, she would say so. "I want to stay in the European Union," she asserted.

But she noted that she wants to change the EU. Among other things, she advocated for French law taking priority over EU law.

Macron leading in polls

Wednesday's televised appearance is the only time that pro-European, centrist Macron and Eurosceptic Le Pen will meet directly in this election.

Le Pen came out on top of 12 candidates in the first round of the presidential poll on April 10.

Ahead of Sunday's run-off, Macron is leading comfortably in opinion polls, with 54.5% to 56.5% compared to Le Pen's 43.5% to 45.5%.

But the run-off is expected to be a closer race than five years ago, when the two candidates were also pitched against each other.

Initial polls after the debate indicate that Macron emerged as Wednesday night's winner.

Two out of three viewers thought Macron was the more convincing candidate, according to a survey by the Elabe Institute.

Observers were keen to see whether the two would trade insults and personal attacks like they did in their last televised debate before the 2017 presidential election.

Macron and Le Pen face off in heated TV debate with mutual attacks