French candidates clash on European Union visions

French presidential election candidate Marine Le Pen gestures as she speaks during a debate on April 4, 2017 in La Plaine-Saint-Denis.

Several surveys found the National Front leader did not perform particularly well and after losing her cool several times was rated only the fourth most convincing candidate, with 11% of the share of viewers in an Elabe poll.

The two politicians, who most polls say will face each other in the May 7 runoff for the presidency, clashed too over ways of protecting French markets within the European Union, with Le Pen arguing in favor of imposing a border tax on imports - a move which Macron said would cause French farm exports to be barred from foreign markets.

In a marathon debate, which almost lasted four hours, the candidates discussed everything from corruption to leaving the European Union to job creation and to modernisation of the French economy.

Le Pen is embroiled in a set of corruption allegations, along with her anti-immigration National Front party.

Le Pen said she had "not voted for the text" in the European Parliament, but did not specify that she had only abstained.

It was another good night for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate, who has been gaining in popularity. Macron is seen easily winning the second round on May 7.

The two-stage election will be April 23 and May 7.With just over two weeks to go until voting starts, the big move, however, was the surge by Melenchon, a veteran campaigner of the far left.

But with Macron and Le Pen both leading the polls at 25%, they both rounded on each other in the hopes of denting their respective counterpart's prospects.

"What you are proposing is nationalism", he also told Le Pen.
He said he came from "a region full of cemeteries" - the Somme where one of the First World War's main battle was fought - and that "we have to know where we come from".

Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon scoffed at her defence, saying it was "amusing to see you playing the victim while spending your time attacking immigrants".

They included fast-talking autoworker Philippe Poutou, who featured widely on social media after taking on Le Pen and Fillon over their legal problems in unusually blunt language.

Melenchon is also closing the gap on right-winger Fillon (17 percent) from the Republicans party, whose campaign has been torpedoed by a series of allegations, including that he paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros for a fake parliamentary job.

France's top candidates for president are advocating opposite economic policies during a crucial debate.

Macron on Tuesday said Le Pen's nationalist proposals amounted to "economic warfare", BBC reported.

"I'll take you to court for that", Fillon said, lowering his voice.

This debate is key as some candidates have said that they won't attend the final debate on April 20th, as it is too close to the election.

The below excerpt from a Bloomberg account of the French presidential race in the southern city of Perpignan echoes the accounts that Asia Unhedged continues to hear from French voters.

  • Leroy Wright