The candidates for the presidency of France, the current president and socio-liberal, Emmanuel Macron, and the far-right, Marine Le Pen, have staged this Wednesday a election debate tense and full of accusations four days from the second round of the French presidential elections.
In its only debate of the campaignthe candidates have collided on their proposals to defend purchasing power of the French, as well as in their vision of the European Union and the retirement age.
France has experienced in recent weeks an atypical electoral campaign marked by the war in Ukraine, which, precisely, has given rise to one of the most tense moments of the debate, when Macron has accused his rival of depending “of Russian power and Mr. Putin” for having asked for a loan from a Russian bacchus. The socioliberal candidate has also recalled that the far-right candidate was “one of the first European politicians to recognize the annexation of Crimea” by Russia in 2014.
The French face-to-face began with a cordial tone with which Le Pen, more moderate than in the 2017 duel, has assured that is ready to be the next president of France. “I will make it my top priority for the next five years to be give the French their money back“, has indicated the candidate of the National Association, who has promised to increase the household net income at an average of 150 to 200 euros per month.
The debate this Wednesday has been decisive for elections in which candidates are challenged to conquer the undecided and those voters who they chose in the first round the other ten options who fell by the wayside. vote of the party of the radical left France Insumisa, directed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is the most coveted by Macron and Le Pen, since it was the third most voted option in the first round, with 21.95%. According to an internal consultation, about 67% of the supporters of Mélenchon’s party affirm that they will vote blank or null or will abstain in the second round.
Macron accuses Le Pen’s party of depending on Russia
In the duel between the two presidential candidates, Macron has accused his opponent of depending on the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and on a Russian bank that granted in 2015 a loan to his party that has not yet been repaid. “You were one of the first European politicians to recognize the annexation of Crimea in 2014,” said Macron, who recalled that “in international law, since the Second World War, rarely recognizes territories that have been forcibly annexed“. “Why did you do it? I’m serious because it depends on Russian power and it depends on Mr. Putin“, has added.
Faced with these accusations, Le Pen, questioned about her good harmony with Putin, responded that “Mr. Macron has access to all the information from French intelligence and he knows very well that what he is saying is false“. The National Grouping candidate has also criticized Macron receiving the Russian president in Versailles at the beginning of his term and has recalled a message that she posted on her Twitter account defending a “free Ukraine”.
Macron has also defended his strategy to respond to the war in Ukraine with economic sanctions on Russia, as well as financial support and the sending of equipment to Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian offensive. The current French president has pointed out that the response must be European, although he has also highlighted the importance of talking with China and the Gulf countries.
For her part, Le Pen has expressed her “solidarity to the Ukrainian people” and has applauded the efforts made by Macron. He has also defended offer humanitarian, financial and defensive material aid to Ukraine, but he has indicated that the only sanction imposed against Moscow with which he does not agree is the blocking the import of Russian oil and gas. “It is not a good method. It will not harm Russia and it will do a lot of damage to the French people,” he asserted.
Around the European Union
The state of the European Union has also starred in the block dedicated to international politics. Macron, a firm defender of the club, has pointed out that believes “in Europe and in the Franco-German relationship” and highlighted European health policy during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as progress in building a European defense. “I’m convinced that our sovereignty is national and european and that the two complement each other. Through Europe we will be more dependent”, indicated the current French president, who added that “We need a stronger and more integrated Europe.”
Macron has also considered that Le Pen’s project, like five years ago, would mean France’s exit from the European Union and has accused his opponent of wanting to get the country out of the euro “without saying so”. Le Pen has denied that he wants the country to leave the blocbut has defended that the European Union be modified “to effectively achieve a European Alliance of Nations”.
The far-right candidate has accused the European Commission of interfere in the national decisions of its members and the “multiplication of international free trade treaties signed to allow the sale of German cars at the sacrifice of our farmers”.
In addition, Le Pen has responded to Macron saying that “the European sovereignty does not exist because there is no European citizenship” and has pointed out that what the socioliberal candidate wants is “replace French sovereignty with European and, for this reason, it puts the European flag under the Arc de Triomphe”.
“Civil war” over the ban on the Islamic headscarf
One of the most controversial proposals in Le Pen’s program is ban the islamic veil in the street. In the debate, the far-right candidate has defended her project of calling a referendum on the matter and has insisted that she is not anti-Islamic, but “opposed to Islamic ideology.”
In this sense, Emmanuel Macron assured Le Pen that “will start a civil war” if he bans the veil. “It doesn’t make sense. He is confusing all the problems, confusing Islam with Islamism,” the candidate for the Elysee indicated. “What you propose is very serious. The homeland of the Enlightenment would be the first country in the world to ban religious signs. Has no sense. It does not respect our values ”, she has asserted.
During her campaign, Marine Le Pen has justified the prohibition of the Islamic headscarf in the street, since she considers it “An Islamist uniform is not a Muslim uniform.”
Clashes over retirement and defending purchasing power
In the debate that marks the final stretch of the electoral campaign, the candidates for the presidency have clashed over their proposals for defend the purchasing power of the French. While Le Pen has defended his proposal for lower VAT “perennially” to all energy sources from 20 to 5.5%, Macron has defended the measures already taken by his government to lock gas and electricity prices and has underlined that the VAT cut would promote the consumption of “fossil energy that must be imported”. Le Pen has also proposed abandoning the European energy pricing mechanism, something that Macron has considered “unrealistic”.
Likewise, the current French president has pointed out that such a strong reduction in VAT would benefit all French people, while the measures adopted by his executive, such as the check for families with less income, focus on those who need more support. “It is more efficient and fairer, because VAT at 0% is not effective“, Macron has indicated.
Retirement has been another of the topics of the debate in which both have disagreed. The candidate of the National Association defends that the French retire “between 60 and 62 years old to enjoy a full retirement and they must be between 40 and 42 years old. “Macron wants people to work until they are 65. It is a totally unbearable injustice to consider that the French retire when they will not be able to enjoy retirement,” he said.
The candidates have also addressed other issues such as education, the environment and health. On this last aspect, Le Pen has criticized Macron’s management during the pandemic and has stated that he will return the jobs to the 15,000 toilets who were left without salary for refusing to take a test because they were not vaccinated.
This debate has shown the distance between the positions of the current socio-liberal president and a far-right candidate who aspires to seize the presidency. Four days before the elections, the polls keep Macron ahead of Le Pen, with around 55% in voting intention, although the far-right candidate has closed the gap with the president. French voters will decide this Sunday who will be their next president.