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“France deserves better than you”

Macron emerges as winner after final TV debate with “high priestess of fear” Le Pen

Macron emerges as winner after final TV debate with “high priestess of fear” Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron emerged as the clear winner of a heated and insult-laced TV debate with his presidential rival Marine Le Pen Wednesday. Opinion polls, pundits and newspaper editorials all declared Thursday that the far-right candidate’s invective-filled attacks didn’t succeed in convincing French voters to change their minds.

The debate on Wednesday evening, which at times descended into a slugging match between the “hate-filled liar” and the “smirking banker,” was the last major event before the country votes for the final time on Sunday to decide who will become president of France.

With 16.5 million people watching the debate, it was a chance for both candidates to outline their respective visions for the future of France and convince the estimated 18 percent of undecided voters who they should choose — but instead, both seemed to focus on insulting each other.

Le Pen attempted to paint Macron as an arrogant banker who has colluded with Islamists and is weak on terrorism. She labeled Macron “the candidate of wild globalization, uberization, poverty. The candidate of a war of everyone versus everyone.”

Macron, on the other hand, accused Le Pen of being a “parasite,” failing to propose any meaningful policies, and exaggerating the threat to France from Islamic terrorists – calling her “the high priestess of fear.” Following a particularly heated exchange, Macron turned to his opponent and said, “I’m sorry, Madame Le Pen; France deserves better than you.”

The pair also clashed over the European Union, with Le Pen reiterating her promise to hold a referendum on leaving the EU if she wins, adding that she would offer businesses the option of using the euro or returning to the franc — a proposal that Macron called “nonsense.”

Since the first vote on April 23, Marcon has held a consistent 20-point lead over his rival, despite the fact his margin of victory in the initial vote was less than 3 percent over Le Pen.

A poll of those watching the debate, conducted by Elabe and published by broadcaster BFM TV, found that 63 percent were “most convinced” by Macron, with just 34 percent finding Le Pen more appealing. The poll also revealed that more than one in 10 of Le Pen’s own supporters believed that Macron had won the debate.

French media were also critical of Le Pen, with Le Monde pointing out 19 times she presented fake facts or information during the debate. The right-leaning magazine Le Point called Le Pen’s performance a “shipwreck,” and accused her of being incompetent.

Le Figaro called it a debate of “unprecedented brutality,” adding that Le Pen’s strategy of “total war” consisted of “bombarding her opponent without respite.” It said Macron had dominated on economic issues.

BFM TV’s political editor Ruth Elkrief said the debate as a whole was undignified and  “not worthy of a presidential election campaign.” Jean Quatremer, a journalist who works for left-wing newspaper Liberation tweeted: “This is a big moment in television, the emotional collapse of Marine Le Pen live, which highlights her limits.”

Alain Juppé, a former prime minister and presidential candidate — and current mayor of Bordeaux — tweeted, “How bad was she! Messy, aggressive, sarcastic. How can you imagine such a person as president of France?”

Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS

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