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Macron vs Le Pen: A review of France’s presidential debate

After the first election on 10th April, the two leading candidates, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will compete in the second-round of elections on 23rd April. Earlier, the incumbent got 27% of the vote, leading the presidential race. Following is Le Pen of the National Rally, achieving 23% of the votes. The two candidates had previously reached the same position in 2017, though Le Pen lost drastically with 33%, while Macron ended with 66%. Yet, this time the margins are much closer, given the gap between the two candidates is only around 6%. This week is crucial for a deciding victory.


On 20th April, a nationally televised debate between the two saw an intense, heated battle covering a wide range of policies and topics. For the French people, the cost of living has been a major crisis in recent years, worsened by the Russian invasion. It was a heated topic and a fundamental focus for both. Like other right-wing politicians, Le Pen's promise of “giving the French back their money” over tax reduction and salary increases sounds rather theoretical than practical. The first clash came when Macron quickly addressed the impossibility of an increase in salary, since it is a matter concerning employers as well. Le Pen replied, calling out Macron for following the same theory when suggesting an increase in bonuses.


Not surprisingly, the conflict in Ukraine was the main area, not only on France’s position but also on Le Pen’s well-known ties with Russia. The far-right candidate was questioned by Macron on her position with Russia, through mentions that she is “dependent” on Putin, over discoveries of her Russian-funded election campaign. In response, Le Pen reaffirmed her position as a French patriot and that she is an independent and “perfectly free woman”. Her criticism of EU sanctions was also mentioned by Macron, in which she justified that the consequences of sanctions would harm the French public. 


Other social issues on Islamism and immigration are also key points for the National Rally. Briefly outlining her plan to ban Islamic headscarves in public areas, and a more strict security check on immigrants, Macron highlighted and warned the audience of the danger of aggregating Islamism with terrorism, and later on including foreigners. 


To summarise, both candidates have improved their performance compared to 2017. Macron is now an experienced politician with presidential performances, whilst Le Pen has remained calm and patient throughout their exchange. Though, the lack of outstanding content left no apparent winner for the night, both candidates should concentrate on rallying votes from supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the third-place candidate who received 21% of votes, many of whom are yet to decide between Macron and Le Pen.


Currently, polls show Macron has a high chance of winning, as the French centralists and left-wingers would still prefer the incumbent president over Le Pen. Nonetheless, it is not to forget the US 2016 election, where Clinton led the poll till election day. The French President should not repeat his mistake in overlooking campaigning, as a surprising defeat is not impossible. Do pay attention to the election on Sunday. Its impact on France, and Europe could be massive and prolonging.

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Tags: #Macron #LePen #France election


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