Macron and Le Pen clash over Russia, the hijab and the EU in a televised debate

French President Emmanuel Macron has ripped his far-right rival Marine Le Pen over his ties to Russia and plans to ban Muslim women from wearing the hijab in public during a heated TV debate ahead of the second and Sunday’s final vote for the presidency, AlJazeera reported. .

The campaign’s only one-on-one confrontation in the second round was peppered with ‘don’t interrupt’ calls and accusations that the other was not up to the task of leading the France, member of the UN Security Council with right of veto and second in Europe. -the greatest economy.

Polls suggest Macron, a pro-European centrist, has a growing and significant lead over Le Pen. But the result is expected to be closer than five years ago, and both candidates are seeking votes among voters who did not support them in the first round of elections on April 10.

Macron hammered his rival a 9 million euro ($9.8 million) loan Le Pen’s party received in 2014 from a Czech-Russian bank, saying it made it unfit to deal with Moscow .

Macron also said his plan to ban Muslim women in France from wearing the headscarf in public would spark a “civil war” in a country with the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.

Le Pen bristled at Macron’s suggestion that she was indebted to Russia. She described herself as “completely free” and said Macron “knows very well that what he is saying is wrong”.

She sought to appeal to voters struggling with soaring prices amid war in Ukraine. She said lowering the cost of living would be her top priority if elected France’s first female president and sought to cast herself as the candidate for voters unable to make ends meet.

She said Macron’s presidency had left the country deeply divided. She repeatedly referenced the so-called “yellow vests” protest movement that rocked her government before the COVID-19 pandemic, with months of violent demonstrations against its economic policies.

Only 14% of voters were waiting for the debate to decide who to vote for, while 12% said it would be decisive as to whether or not they would vote, according to a poll by OpinionWay-Kea Partners for Les Echos newspaper.

That said, after more than half of the electorate voted for far-right or far-left candidates in the first round on April 10, Macron’s lead in the opinion polls is much smaller than in the last election when he beat Le Pen with 66.1% of the vote. vote.

Since then, Le Pen has at least partly succeeded in attracting mainstream voters while Macron is no longer the same outside troublemaker he was in 2017 when the debate cemented his status as an undisputed frontrunner.

ZZ/PR

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