Le Pen and Macron clash in no holds-barred debate in France

For the first time, neither candidate is from a mainstream French party.

According to a snap opinion poll by Elabe for BFMTV, 63 percent of viewers found Macron the more convincing candidate in the debate, reinforcing his status as favourite to win the Elysee on Sunday.

Macron and Le Pen finished top of the 11 candidates who contested the first round of the election on April 23.

Macron's team have made it clear they intend to rebut personal attacks from the acid-tongued daughter of veteran far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, but "our goal is to avoid being dragged into mud-slinging", an aide to Macron told AFP.

Though Le Pen has a mountain to climb, the campaign has been packed with surprises.

On Wednesday evening, Le Pen squared off with Emmanuel Macron in the final debate of the election contest ahead of Sunday's runoff.

In angry exchanges, Le Pen played up Macron's background as a former investment banker and economy minister, painting him as heir to the outgoing unpopular Socialist government and as the "candidate of globalisation gone wild". He launched a political movement previous year to support his presidential bid.

Macron is expected to be wary of making mistakes that could cost him support and is likely to hone his fire on uncertainty about Le Pen's pledge to withdraw France from the euro common currency.

The policy is seen as risky and is unpopular with most voters. "It's the issue that causes the most concern, especially for businesses".

Ms Maréchal-Le Pen said that it would not be the "first priority" but that she would "personally guarantee that this bill is demolished". Len Pen advocates talks by sector instead of by company. "What you are proposing is snake oil", he said, referring to her proposals to close France's borders.

Le Pen said upon her arrival at the studio that she hopes the debate will help the millions of undecided French make up their minds between "continuity or change that I represent".

  • Leroy Wright