Le Pen says banks will not quit France if France quits euro

Socialist Party candidate Benoit Hamon, unlikely to get beyond the election's first round, mocked Le Pen for "playing the victim".

In a sequence on "moralising politics", Philippe Poutou, a Ford factory worker running for the New Anticapitalist Party, laid into both during the debate.

Other anti-EU nationalists such as Francois Asselineau, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and Jacques Cheminade, as well as farmer-politician Jean Lassalle, had a rare showcase on the national stage.

Imagine if Americans elected a president who was neither Democrat nor Republican.

French daily Le Figaro called the debate a "cacophony" as the 11 candidates shouted at and interrupted one another for four hours.

Two polls conducted after a televised debate among candidates Tuesday night showed the 65-year-old Communist-party-backed candidate just a percentage point or two behind third-placed conservative Francois Fillon in an unpredictable contest in which over a third of voters are still undecided. "The French will make a judgment in a little less than three weeks".

Watch: French citizens watch the presidential debate'Race to the bottom'?

In one of the first polls on voter intentions since Tuesday's debate between all 11 candidates, Macron was seen winning 23.5 percent of the vote in the April 23 first round, his lowest score in a month and down from 25.5 percent the last time the poll was conducted on March 28-29.

Asked how they want to create jobs in a country where the unemployment rate has for years hovered around 10 percent, Le Pen and Macron advocated opposite economic policies.

If Fillon can perform well during this evening's debate, then the market could re-price for a Fillon/Macron second round, with Le Pen out of the picture.

"What you are proposing, Madame Le Pen, is a reduction in French people's spending power because, by withdrawing from the euro, for savers, workers, it's a reduction in spending power", he said.

Fillon said he was "entitled to the presumption of innocence".

She says her priority would be to cut taxes on French small and middle-size business.

Today, by many accounts, despite expectations that the globalist Macron will ultimately prevail in the second round of voting, there are signs that Le Pen's draw among French voters is spreading.

Le Pen, who wants to leave the euro, hold a referendum on European Union membership and curb immigration, in return accused Macron of "speaking like old fossils that are at least 50 years old".

Macron on Saturday said he wanted to restore military service to France for some 600,000 young people each year as part of efforts to face a world entering an era of "turbulence" comparable to the Cold War.

Fillon was given preliminary charges for allegedly giving his wife and two children government-funded jobs which they never did. Though Penelopegate and other scandals have marred Fillon's campaign, he has professed no wrongdoing and vowed to fight on. The affair sent him skidding in the polls ahead of the first round of voting on April 23. And while those same polls suggest she would lose by a healthy margin in the two-person runoff scheduled for May 7, investors aren't in the mood to trust opinion when it comes to significant political risks.

  • Leroy Wright