Presidential election sees upheaval but no change in outlook

Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche!, or Onwards!, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, attends a campaign rally in Marseille, France, April 1, 2017. In the run-off, all the polls show Le Pen would lose against either of these two rivals.

Polls now show Le Pen and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron running neck-and-neck in the first round of the election on April 23, with Macron handily beating Le Pen in the May 7 runoff.

Poutou, a vehicle factory worker who is expected to get only minimal support in the April 23 first round of the election, also had harsh words for Le Pen.

Far right leader Marine Le Pen was also seen at 23.5 percent in the first round, down from 24 percent after the four-hour debate. The second tour is slated for May 7.

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.

Despite polls showing a lead for Emanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen's chances may be better than many think.

His proposition to trigger the EU's Article 50 to start exit talks as soon as he would be elected proved too radical for Le Pen.
The National Front leader told Asselineau he was proposing "a brutal exit".

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

He has resisted calls to step down and hit out a "conspiracy" against him but shows no sign of recovering in the polls as the scandal over thousands of euros of public money paid to his wife, son and daughter continues.

Unlike that debate, Tuesday's will feature all of the candidates and not just the top five, prompting fears it could become unwieldy.

With humor and a far-left conviction, he shone in the last presidential debate and his ratings have spiked in recent days.

Middle form left: Jean-Luc Melelchon, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Nathalie Arthaud, Philippe Poutou.

However, with no standout victor, the debate did more to highlight the fissures in France than to indicate who might be the next leader of the country.

Visibly tired, Mr Fillon - who is trailing in third place in the race - did manage to hit back when asked how he would define an exemplary president.

"There will be a referendum in any case", she said, adding that, assuming she was president, she would step down if her proposal in that popular vote was not supported.

Macron, whom the daily Le Parisien on Tuesday dubbed "the man to beat", has warned that commentators are still underestimating Le Pen.

Dissatisfaction and outright hostility towards mainstream politics is high in France and surveys show around a third of voters plan to abstain.

  • Leroy Wright