Macron, Le Pen in pole position for presidential debate

To channel such discontent away from the populist right of Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron founded a new political party, En Marche! which has emerged as the real contender of Marine Le Pen.

But she was also accused from the right of not being tough enough on France's membership of the EU.

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".

The first round of presidential election in France is scheduled for April 23, while the run-off vote is slated for May 7.

Longer term, however, a Macron victory could be negative for the French bond markets because at present his policies are unclear and seem set to do little to address two major economic concerns - France's high debt-to- GDP ratio and high current account deficit.

Le Pen's odds have not changed in a scenario where she is pitted against Francois Fillon, a conservative from The Republicans party, in the second-round voting.

The presence of the six minor candidates - all polling well under five percent - added a strong anti-capitalist element to the debate, as well as vivid anti-EU sentiment.

The others are Jacques Cheminade, who rails against the "domination" of global finance; the New Anti-Capitalist Party's Philippe Poutou; Nathalie Arthaud of the Workers Party; Francois Asselineau, who wants to quit the euro and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and Jean Lassalle, a self-styled "farmer-politician" without political affiliation.

Some of it was diverting, some of it was deadly serious.

"François Fillon - the more one digs, the more it smells of corruption, trickery". Those two are Francois Fillon and Emmanuel Macron.

Everyone else - from Marine Le Pen to the uber-Gaullist Nicolas Dupont Aignan to the firebrand of the left Jean-Luc Melenchon (as brilliant as ever on stage) - wants the rules of Europe and the economy totally rewritten. It is a fight for the chance - in round two - to stand up for the existing order against the anti-system.

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.

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

"It's unacceptable that people come from Romania, Poland or Spain and don't pay socil charges when our craftsmen, our independent workers pay them", he said.

PARIS (AP) — French conservative candidate Francois Fillon is denouncing what he calls the Socialist government's "manipulations" that he says are created to eliminate him from the presidential race.

  • Leroy Wright