French presidency frontrunner Macron tells rival Le Pen nationalism means war

Turning the topic to security, Ms Le Pen said that France had become a "university for jihadists", prompting angry interruptions from the left-wing candidates.

The comment appeared to be a swipe at Le Pen's efforts to detoxify the party her father Jean-Marie Le Pen founded and make it more palatable to mainstream voters.

Macron, a popular former economy minister who has created his own party from scratch for the election, was forecast to win the May 7 runoff with 62 percent to 38 percent for Le Pen.

Polls show far-right candidate Le Pen and centrist independent Macron in a dead heat at around 25 percent heading into the first round on April 23.

The only candidate to passionately support the European Union was independent Emmanuel Macron, Ms. Le Pen's main rival for the presidency, who accused her of wanting to cause "economic war".

In the most dramatic episode of last night's debate, Mr Poutou said: "Since January, it's been a goldmine".

He was referring to a press report in the satirical Le Canard Enchaine weekly which was the first to allege that Fillon had been paying his wife huge sums of tax-payers money for work she had not properly carried out.

Looking ill at ease, Fillon replied that he had made no mistakes and would not take questions on the allegations. "I think Macron might not be in the second round of elections", she said Tuesday.

He said "I am entitled to the presumption of innocence" he said.

Fillon was the frontrunner in the campaign until he was hit by the "fake jobs" scandal and placed under formal investigation.

However, the first public debate of presidential candidates showed that the leader of movement La France Insoumise (Unbowed France) Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called on to leave all the European Union fundamental treaties and criticized European Union trade agreements with Canada and the US, became the victor: he turned out the most convincing for 25% of the audience.

Speaking alongside 10 other candidates as things got a little heated in the second of three televised French presidential election debates, she said that her presidency would improve the lives of French citizens.

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

Mr Poutou was particularly outraged that both right-wing candidates can claim political immunity from prosecution if they are elected president, saying "ordinary workers don't have immunity" if they find themselves in trouble with the law.

"Without a clever protectionism, we are going to watch jobs being destroyed one after another", she said.

"Is this a (police) interrogation?"

An editorial in Le Figaro also said "it is not certain that at the end of this unique debate voters will be more enlightened".

  • Leroy Wright