President Donald Trump and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, have set out opposing views ahead of a NATO summit in London.
In an occasionally tense press conference, Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron sparred over NATO’s role, Turkey, and ISIS.
President Trump had described Emmanuel Macron’s comments about NATO as “nasty”, but the French president said he stood by his words.
World leaders gathered in London to mark the Western military alliance’s 70th anniversary.
The NATO summit has already been marked by strained relations between Turkey and other member states.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will oppose NATO’s plan for the defense of the Baltic region if it does not back Turkey over its fight against Kurdish groups it considers terrorists.
On December 3, Emmanuel Macron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Downing Street in a four-way meeting that also included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the host, UK PM Boris Johnson.
Ties between President Trump and Emmanuel Macron were already strained amid a trade dispute, and after the French president described NATO as “brain dead” last month because, he said, the US commitment to the alliance was fading.
On December 3, President Trump hit back by saying Emmanuel Macron had been “very disrespectful”, adding that France had “a very high unemployment rate” and “nobody needs NATO more than France”.
At a joint press conference with Emmanuel Macron later, President Trump was less combative, stressing that the two countries had “done a lot of good things together”. Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, said he stood by his comments.
The two sides then clashed over foreign ISIS fighters who were captured in Syria.
President Trump jokingly offered them to France, saying: “Would you like some nice [ISIS] fighters? You can take everyone you want.”
Sounding stern, Emmanuel Macron said “Let’s be serious” and that ISIS fighters from Europe were “a tiny minority”, and that the “number one priority” was to get rid of the terrorist group.
President Trump then retorted: “This is why he is a great politician because that was one of the greater non-answers I have ever heard, and that’s OK.”
He also criticized NATO countries who were paying less than the NATO guidelines of at least 2% of GDP towards the alliance.
President Trump said he did not want countries to be “delinquent” and pay less than their share, adding: “Maybe I’ll deal with them from a trade standpoint.”
Emmanuel Macron said France – which currently spends 1.84% of its GDP on defense – would reach the minimum, and acknowledged that the US had “overinvested” in NATO for several decades.
However, he added that there were other pressing issues to discuss.
The two leaders also discussed Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian S-400 missile system.
President Trump said they were “looking at” whether to impose sanctions, while Emmanuel Macron asked: “How is it possible to be a member of the alliance… and buy things from Russia?”
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been key allies of the US-led coalition against ISIS in Syria. However, Turkey views a section of the group – the YPG – as terrorists.
Ahead of his departure for London, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would not approve a plan to defend Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the event of a Russian attack unless NATO recognized the Kurdish YPG militia as terrorists.
Five other nations – including France – remain committed to the deal, but Iran has started to ratchet up its nuclear activity in response to the US reinstating and tightening economic sanctions against them.
President Macron has taken an active role in trying to diffuse tensions and save the accord – but Iran’s relations with the West have strained further in recent months over a series of confrontations and oil tanker seizures in and around the Gulf.
Mohammad Javad Zarif was himself singled out for US sanctions last month, with US officials accusing him of implementing “the reckless agenda” of Iran’s leader.
Reports about the circumstances of his visit on Sunday are conflicting. French officials told reporters the foreign minister was invited in agreement with the US delegation, but White House officials have suggested they were taken by surprise.
They were also conflicting comments by President Macron and President Trump during the weekend as to whether G7 leaders had agreed a joint approach to easing tensions with Tehran.
On August 25, President Trump appeared to dismiss French mediation efforts.
He said: “We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk.”
Leaders from the G7 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US – have been attending the group’s 45th summit all weekend.
A range of topics, including the nuclear deal and Brexit, have been on the talks agenda.
Violence broke out in Paris during a fourth consecutive weekend of Yellow Vest protests on December 8.
French riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets. Nearly 90,000 officers had been deployed,including 8,000 in Paris where 12 armored vehicles were also used.
More than 1,700 people were arrested, but the violence was not on the same level as a week earlier.
According to the interior ministry, an estimated 125,000 people took part in marches across the country protesting against fuel tax rises and high living costs. Around 10,000 people demonstrated inParis, where the scenes were the most destructive. Windows were smashed, carswere burned and stores were looted.
Video footage showed protesters hitby rubber bullets – including in the face. At least three members of the press were among those hit.
President Emmanuel Macron says his fuel policies are needed to combat global warming.
One person was in a critical condition after protesters pulled down an iron gate at the Tuileries Garden near the Louvre museum, which fell on several people.
An assault rifle was also stolen from a police vehicle although it was unclear if it was loaded, AFP quotes a police source as saying.
According to the French interior ministry, at least 75,000 people had turned out across France for the latest “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) rallies – so called because the protesters donned the high-visible vest required to be carried in every vehicle by law.
Nearly 190 fires were put out and six buildings were set ablaze, the interior ministry said.
Responding to the day’s events from the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, President Macron said the protests “had absolutely nothing to do with a peaceful demonstration of a legitimate unhappiness or discontent.”
President Macron said those responsible did not want change, but instead intended to “wreak chaos”.
Earlier this week, he tried to strike a conciliatory tone, saying he was open to ideas about how the fuel tax could be applied.
However, President Macron’s speech does not appear to have gone far enough in assuaging people of the view that he is out of touch with ordinary people.
Paris riot police have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters demonstrating for a second weekend against rising fuel prices.
Violence erupted on Paris’ best-known avenue, the Champs-Elysées, as protesters tried to get through a security cordon around sensitive sites.
About 5,000 “yellow vest” protesters had converged on the Champs-Elysées. At least 13 people were arrested after clashing with police.
Organizers billed the latest protests as “act two” in their rolling campaign.
Named after their distinctive high-visibility attire, the “yellow vest” protesters oppose an increase in fuel duty on diesel. All drivers in France have to carry the jackets in their cars as part of safety equipment for use in a breakdown.
Along with the familiar red reflective triangle which must be placed behind a broken-down vehicle on the side of a road, the high-visibility jacket – or “gilet jaune” – must be worn by the driver outside the car.
Failure to wear the jacket after a breakdown or accident can result in a €135 ($153) fine under a law introduced in 2008.
Synonymous with driving, the yellow vests have now morphed into the uniform of the movement against higher fuel costs.
Demonstrators on the Champs-Elysées came up against metal barriers and a police-enforced perimeter designed to stop them reaching key buildings such as the prime minister’s official residence.
Some demonstrators ripped up paving stones and threw firecrackers at police while shouting slogans calling for President Emmanuel Macron to resign.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner accused the demonstrators of being influenced by the leader of the far-right National Rally party, Marine Le Pen. However, she accused him, on Twitter, of dishonesty.
Christophe Castaner put the number of people taking part across France at 23,000 by 11AM local time – much less than the first day of Yellow Jacket protests, which drew some 280,000 people a week ago.
The price of diesel, the most commonly used fuel in French cars, has risen by around 23% over the past 12 months to an average of €1.51 ($1.71) per liter, its highest point since the early 2000s.
World oil prices did rise before falling back again but the Macron government raised its hydrocarbon tax this year by 7.6 cents per liter on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol, as part of a campaign for cleaner cars and fuel.
The decision to impose a further increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol on January 1, 2019, was seen as the final straw.
President Emmanuel Macron has blamed world oil prices for three-quarters of the price rise. He also said more tax on fossil fuels was needed to fund renewable energy investments.
One female protester has died and more than 200 were injured as about 280,000 people took to the streets of France, angry at rising fuel prices.
The “yellow vests”, so-called after the high-visibility jackets they are required to carry in their cars, blocked highways and roundabouts.
They accuse President Emmanuel Macron of abandoning “the little people”.
The protester who died was struck after a driver surrounded by demonstrators panicked and accelerated.
President Macron has not so far commented on the protests, some of which have seen demonstrators call for him to resign.
However, he admitted earlier in the week that he had not “really managed to reconcile the French people with their leaders”.
Nonetheless, President Macron accused his political opponents of hijacking the movement in order to block his reform program.
Some 280,000 people took part in protests across France, the interior ministry said in its latest update.
According to the interior ministry, 227 people were injured during the day, seven seriously, with 52 people arrested.
Most of the protests have been taking place without incident although several of the injuries came when drivers tried to force their way through protesters.
The 63-year-old woman was killed in the south-eastern Savoy region when a driver who was taking her daughter to hospital panicked at being blocked by about 50 demonstrators, who were striking the roof of her vehicle, and drove into them.
The female driver has been taken into police custody in a state of shock.
In Paris protesters approaching the Élysée Palace, President Macron’s official residence, were repelled with tear gas.
The price of diesel, the most commonly used fuel in French cars, has risen by around 23% over the past 12 months to an average of €1.51 ($1.71) per liter, its highest point since the early 2000s, AFP reports.
World oil prices did rise before falling back again but the Macron government raised its hydrocarbon tax this year by 7.6 cents per liter on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol, as part of a campaign for cleaner cars and fuel.
The decision to impose a further increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol on 1 January 2019 was seen as the final straw.
Speaking on November 14, President Macron blamed world oil prices for three-quarters of the price rise. He also said more tax on fossil fuels was needed to fund renewable energy investments.
The Yellow Vests movement has broad support. Nearly three-quarters of respondents to a poll by the Elabe institute backed the Yellow Vests and 70% wanted the government to reverse the fuel tax hikes.
More than half of French people who voted for Emmanuel Macron support the protests, Elabe’s Vincent Thibault told AFP.
They have certainly tried to tap into it. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who was defeated by Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential election, has been encouraging it on Twitter.
Marine Le Pen tweeted: “The government shouldn’t be afraid of French people who come to express their revolt and do it in a peaceful fashion.”
On November 14, the French government announced action to help poor families pay their energy and transport bills.
PM Edouard Philippe announced that 5.6 million households would receive energy subsidies. Currently 3.6 million receive them.
A state scrap page bonus on polluting vehicles would also be doubled for France’s poorest families, he said, and fuel tax credits would be brought in for people who depend on their cars for work.
Protesters have mocked President Macron relentlessly as “Micron” or “Macaron” (Macaroon) or simply Manu, the short form of Emmanuel, which he famously scolded a student for using.
President Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended a peace conference – the Paris Peace Forum – with leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On November 10, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel visited the town of Compiègne in northern France. They signed a book of remembrance in a railway carriage identical to the one in which the 1918 Armistice was sealed.
President Donald Trump caused controversy by canceling a trip to a cemetery for the war dead because of bad weather.
A group of around 50 activist organizations held a demonstration in Paris in protest against President Trump’s visit.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was quoted as saying that Tehran would “most likely” abandon the accord if the US pulled out.
Referring to the 2015 accord which he described as “insane”, President Trump said: “They should have made a deal that covered Yemen, that covered Syria, that covered other parts of the Middle East.”
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron agreed that Tehran’s influence in the region must be part of negotiations.
The French president also stressed that – as well as controlling Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade as envisaged by the current agreement – a fresh deal would need to cover its nuclear activities longer-term, as well as its ballistic missile program.
Emmanuel Macron talked about working with President Trump to build a “new framework” in the Middle East – and especially in Syria.
He said he did not know whether President Trump would extend the May 12 deadline, adding: “I can say that we have had very frank discussions on that, just the two of us.”
President Trump earlier warned Iran against resuming its nuclear program.
“They’re not going to be restarting anything. They restart it they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they’ve ever had before,”
On April 23, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened “severe consequences” if the US withdrew from the deal.
Meanwhile, Javad Zarif said just hours before the Trump-Macron summit that a probable response would be to restart the enrichment of uranium – a key bomb-making ingredient.
Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful civilian purposes.
No details of the alleged plot against Saad al-Hariri have been made public.
Uncertainty surrounds Saad al-Hariri’s circumstances, amid rumors he was being held in Riyadh.
President Macron said on November 9 he had had informal contact with Saad al-Hariri, without giving details, while the French foreign minister said France believed Saad al-Hariri was able to move freely.
On November 5, Saad al-Hariri said in a TV broadcast that he was resigning because of the unspecified threat to his life.
In the video statement, Saad al-Hariri also attacked Hezbollah, which is politically and militarily powerful in Lebanon, and Iran.
There are fears Lebanon could become embroiled in a wider regional confrontation between major Sunni power Saudi Arabia and Shia-dominated Iran.
President Macron is a keen supporter of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which both the Saudis and the Trump administration have heavily criticized.
Before going to Saudi Arabia, Emmanuel Macron said that he had heard “very harsh opinions” on Iran from Saudi Arabia, which did not match his own view.
“It is important to speak with everyone,” the president added.
However, an official communiqué from his office following the visit did not say Iran was among the matters discussed, Le Monde reported.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Lebanon have soared since Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation.
On November 9, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies told their citizens in Lebanon to leave the country immediately. The move came after Saudi Arabia accused Iran of “direct military aggression”, saying it supplied a missile which it says was fired by Hezbollah at Riyadh from Yemen on November 5.
Iran has dismissed Saudi Arabia’s allegations as “false and dangerous”.
The winning margin is lower than some expected, with turnout down from 2012.
La Republique en Marche was formed just over a year ago, and half of its candidates have little or no political experience.
The result has swept aside all of the mainstream parties and gives President Macron a strong mandate in parliament to pursue his pro-EU, business-friendly reform plans.
The second round of the parliamentary election was marked by weak voter turnout, estimated to be a record low of about 42%, down sharply on five years ago.
Correspondents say opponents of the 39-year-old president may simply have not bothered to turn out.
PM Edouard Philippe acknowledged the low turnout, promising his party would act for France as a whole.
The comfortable majority of La République en Marche (Republic on the Move or LREM) and MoDem – surpassing the 289-seat threshold required to control the National Assembly – will be a big blow to traditional parties on both the left and right.
The conservative Republicans and their allies could form a large opposition block, with 125-131 seats. But this figure is down from 200 seats in the last parliament.
The Socialists, who were in power for the past five years, alongside their partners, looked set to get only 41-49 seats – their lowest tally ever.
Socialist leader Jean-Claude Cambadélis announced his retirement from the post, and urged the left “to change everything, its form and its substance, its ideas and its organization”.
Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN) party won eight seats, but it had set its sights on 15.
The 48-year-old leader has won a seat in parliament for the first time, representing Henin-Beaumont, a depressed former mining town in the north. However, two of her top aides, including her deputy leader, were eliminated.
Marine Le Pen said President Macron may have got a large parliamentary majority, but “he must know that his ideas are not of the majority in the country and that the French will not support a project that weakens our nation”.
The president needs a majority to push through the changes that he promised in his campaign, which include budget savings of €60 billion ($65 billion) in the next five years, cutting the number of public servants by 120,000, reforming the labor market and generous state pension schemes, bringing them into line with private schemes.
Emmanuel Macron will also become the first president from outside the two traditional main parties since the modern republic’s foundation in 1958.
He said that a new page was being turned in French history.
Emmanuel Macron said he had heard “the rage, anxiety and doubt that a lot of you have expressed” and vowed to spend his five years in office “fighting the forces of division that undermine France”.
He said he would “guarantee the unity of the nation and… defend and protect Europe”.
Image source Wikimedia
Thousands of Emmanuel Macron’s supporters gathered to celebrate outside the Louvre in central Paris. Emmanuel Macron has now arrived to join them.
Security remains tight in Paris and there were reports of police firing tear gas at several hundred anti-capitalist protesters near the Ménilmontant metro in the 20th arrondissement.
The Macron team said that the new president had had a “cordial” telephone conversation with Marine Le Pen.
In a speech Marine Le Pen thanked the 11 million people who had voted for her. She said the election had shown a division between “patriots and globalists” and called for the emergence of a new political force.
Marine Le Pen said her National Front party needed to renew itself and that she would start the “deep transformation of our movement”, vowing to lead it into upcoming parliamentary elections.
She also said she had wished Emmanuel Macron success in tackling the “huge challenges” facing him.
President François Hollande congratulated Emmanuel Macron and said the result showed the French people wanted to unite around the “values of the republic”.
Initial figures suggested the turnout was lower than the past two elections.
Polls opened in France, where voters are choosing their next president after an unpredictable campaign that has divided the country.
The second round contest pits centrist Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker, against the 48-year-old far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen.
Citizens in some overseas territories and many French expats abroad have begun voting.
The polls opened in metropolitan France at 08:00 local time on May 7 and close at 19:00.
Polling stations will remain open in some big cities until 20:00 local time, with early estimates of the result due to be reported immediately after they close.
The two candidates, who topped a field of 11 presidential hopefuls in the first round election on April 23, have offered voters starkly different visions of France.
Emmanuel Macron, a liberal centrist, is pro-business and a strong supporter of the EU, while Marine Le Pen campaigned on a France-first, anti-immigration program.
Image source AFP
The National Front leader wants France to abandon the euro in the domestic economy, and hold a referendum on the country’s EU membership.
Emmanuel Macron is widely expected to win the vote, but analysts have said high abstention rates could damage his chances.
The run-off will be keenly watched across Europe, ahead of elections in Germany and the UK and as Britain negotiates its exit from the EU.
In whittling down a field of candidates to Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, French voters rejected the two big political parties – the Socialists and the Republicans – that have governed for decades.
The presidential campaign has been marked by its unpredictability, and in a final twist on May 5, soon before campaigning officially ended, Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! political movement said it had been the victim of a “massive” hack, with a trove of documents released online.
The Macron team said real documents were mixed up with fake ones, and electoral authorities warned media and the public that spreading details of the attack would breach strict election rules and could bring criminal charges.
En Marche compared the hack to the leak of Democratic Party emails in last year’s US presidential election that was blamed on Russian hackers.
Emmanuel Macron has previously accused Moscow of targeting him with cyber attacks, which Russia strongly denied.
On May 6, President François Hollande promised to “respond” to the attack.
Management of the economy, security, immigration and France’s relationship with the EU have all been key issues in the campaign.
One of the overriding issues is unemployment, which stands at almost 10% and is the eighth highest among the 28 EU member states. One in four under-25s is unemployed.
The French economy has made a slow recovery from the 2008 financial crisis and both candidates say deep changes are needed.
Marine Le Pen wants the pension age cut to 60 and to “renationalize French debt”, which she argues is largely held by foreigners.
Emmanuel Macron wants to cut 120,000 public-sector jobs, reduce public spending by €60 billion ($65 billion), plough billions into investment and reduce unemployment to below 7%.
If voters opt for Emmanuel Macron, they will be backing a candidate who seeks EU reform as well as deeper European integration, in the form of a eurozone budget and eurozone finance ministers.
Marine Le Pen promises quite the opposite. She wants a Europe of nations to replace the EU.
They are similarly divided on other foreign policy issues. Emmanuel Macron opposes any rapprochement with Russia, while Marine Le Pen met Vladimir Putin in Moscow recently and has previously stated her approval of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The presidential election will be followed by legislative elections on June 11 and 18. Emmanuel Macron, who quit the Socialist government of President Hollande to found his new political movement, has no lawmakers, and Marine Le Pen has only two.
Whoever wins the presidency will need to perform well in those crucial elections if they want to win a parliamentary majority to push through their proposals.
About nine gigabytes of data were posted online by an anonymous user.
Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche movement said internal campaign documents, including emails and financial data, had been taken in an “act of massive, co-ordinated hacking”.
“The leaked files were obtained several weeks ago by hacking personal and professional email accounts of several officials of the movement,” the party said in a statement.
Image source Wikimedia
The campaign said the documents showed only legitimate campaign activities.
France’s election commission warned that publication or republication of the leaked information could be a criminal offence.
That too remains unclear. The Macron camp has not blamed any specific party but said the hack clearly aimed to damage it and undermine French democracy.
It compared it to the leak of Democratic Party emails in last year’s US presidential election that was blamed on Russian hackers.
WikiLeaks, which published those emails, posted a link to the Macron documents on Twitter but implied it was not responsible.
Emmanuel Macron’s team has already been the victim of hacking attacks, for which it has blamed groups based in Russia and Ukraine. It suspects the Kremlin of wanting to help Marine Le Pen, who supports a pro-Moscow foreign policy.
Macron campaign servers went down for several minutes in February after attacks apparently originating in Ukraine. Last month, security experts from the company Trend Micro said that Russian hackers were targeting Emmanuel Macron’s campaign, using phishing emails, malware and fake net domains in an attempt to grab login names, passwords and other credentials of campaign staff.
Russia has denied that it is behind attacks aimed at Emmanuel Macron.
On May 4, Emmanuel Macron filed a lawsuit over online rumors that he had a secret bank account in the Caribbean.
The centrist candidate called the allegations “fake news and lies” and said some of the sites spreading them were “linked to Russian interests”.
Separate security alerts in and around Paris marred May 5 final scramble by the candidates to court voters.
A suspected radical Islamist possessing weapons and a pledge of allegiance to ISIS was arrested north of Paris.
Greenpeace activists scaled the Eiffel Tower to unfurl a banner, sparking an emergency police meeting.
French voters have rejected the two big political parties – the Socialists and the Republicans – that have governed for decades.
Voters will be making a decision on the country’s future direction and on its place at the heart of the EU.
If they opt for liberal Emmanuel Macron, they will be backing a candidate who seeks EU reform as well as deeper European integration, in the form of a eurozone budget and eurozone finance ministers.
If instead they choose far-right Marine Le Pen she promises quite the opposite. She wants a Europe of nations to replace the EU.
“I give myself six months to negotiate with the EU the return of sovereignty. Then it will be the French who decide,” Marine Le Pen tweeted.
The assumption is that Marine Le Pen would fail and a referendum would take place initially on France’s membership of the euro.
After the Brexit vote in the UK and the election of President Donald Trump, France is the latest country to deal a blow to politics as usual.
Emmanuel Macron was more impressive than rival Marine Le Pen in last night’s final TV debate for French presidential debate, a viewers’ poll says.
The candidates traded insults for more than two hours, arguing over terrorism, the economy, and Europe.
The French broadcaster BFMTV found voters had a more favorable view of Emmanuel Macron than Marine Le Pen in most categories.
Emmanuel Macron was the “most convincing” of the pair in the opinion of 63% of viewers.
Marine Le Pen lambasted her rival for his finance and government background, accusing him of being “the candidate of savage globalization” and said his version of France “is a trading room, where it will be everyone fighting for themselves”.
In turn, Emmanuel Macron said Marine Le Pen had openly lied, proposed nothing, and exaggerated the concerns of the public.
“The high priestess of fear is sitting before me,” he said.
Image source AFP
Both candidates were hoping to make an impression on the estimated 18% of undecided voters in the first election the country has ever held without a candidate from the two traditional mainstream parties.
The BFMTV poll found that Emmanuel Macron was deemed the “most convincing” during the TV debate for two-thirds of those who voted for both left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round, and for 58% of those who voted for Republican François Fillon.
It was carried out among 1,314 people over the age of 18 who watched the debate.
Emmanuel Macron already enjoys a lead in the opinion polls, which predict he will pull in about 59% of votes.
However, Marine Le Pen hammered her rival on his record during the key debate.
On unemployment, which stands at around 10% nationally, Emmanuel Macron acknowledged that France had not tackled the problem – and Marine Le Pen asked why he had not handled it during his recent time as economy minister.
Marine Le Pen also accused Emmanuel Macron of complacency about the threat of radical Islamist terrorism.
“Security and terrorism are major issues that are completely missing from your program,” she said.
In response, Emmanuel Macron said the measures she proposed – “eradicating” Islamic fundamentalism by shutting down extremist mosques, and expelling preachers of hate – played into terrorists’ hands and the desire they have for a “a civil war”.
They also clashed on the future of the EU, where they have clearly opposed views.
Marine Le Pen has said she would call for an in-out referendum on EU membership, and in recent days declared the euro currency finished.
During the debate, the National Front leader said she would restore France’s national currency and give companies and banks an option on which currency to pay in – a proposal which Emmanuel Macron labeled “nonsense”.
“How can a big company pay in euros on one hand and pay its employees in another currency?” he asked.
Last night’s debate marked the last time the two candidates faced each other before May 7 vote.
Just two days of campaigning remain before reporting restrictions come into force late on May 5 – and remain in place until polls close on May 7.
For the first time, neither candidate is from a mainstream French party.
Although Marine Le Pen’s father qualified in 2002 for the run-off as head of her party, the National Front (FN), his rival and eventual winner, Jacques Chirac, refused to take part in a debate because of the FN leader’s extremist views.
Image source AFP
Both candidates have limited their campaigning in recent days in preparation for the debate, set for 21:00 on May 3 and due to last two hours 20 minutes.
There have been TV debates ahead of the first round but so far the two main candidates have not sparred face to face. And this is being billed as the moment of truth, on the two biggest TV channels in front of some 20 million French viewers.
All the big campaign themes will be tackled, from France’s 10% unemployment rate and the economy to security, health policy and the EU.
For Marine Le Pen it is her big chance to land some blows and make up ground by exposing her 39-year-old rival’s relative inexperience.
Emmanuel Macron as favorite arguably has most to lose.
The French debate is not similar to the US presidential debate where the candidates stand behind lecterns. This is a direct confrontation.
The two candidates will sit at a big desk, Marine Le Pen on the left, Emmanuel Macron on the right. The presidential debate is a tried and tested event in France, going back to 1974.
The two moderators, Nathalie Saint-Cricq and Christophe Jakubyszyn are heavyweight political journalists, but not the big TV presenters France is used to. That is because the candidates objected to the initial choices.
The temperature will be regulated at 19C to keep the candidates cool.
The debate is must-see TV for French voters but there could be a battle over the remote.
AS Monaco go head to head against Juventus 15 minutes before the debate starts in the semi-final of the Champions League, in a match broadcast on pay TV.
Marine Le Pen’s campaign is based on a patriotic “Choose France” slogan. According to her, she is the real thing, and her rival is an impostor backed up by the old guard of French politics.
Her supporters leapt on a rumor on May 2 that Emmanuel Macron was threatening to walk out of the debate if she started using him as a “punching-ball”.
Marine Le Pen tweeted: “If Mr. Macron doesn’t feel comfortable he can always ask [President] François Hollande to come and hold his hand, I won’t stand in his way.”
However, to convince voters wary of a far-right leader she may project a softer image too, while her opponent will need to show a firm streak.
Emmanuel Macron’s aim is to seek the moral high ground by showing that he has authentic policies while his rival’s ideas are simplistic and dangerous for France.
“I want to go head-to-head, to get to the bottom of the issues, to show that these are false solutions,” he said on May 2.
In a victory speech to supporters, Emmanuel Macron borrowed language favored by his rival to describe himself as the patriotic choice for France.
Image source NBC News
“I hope that in a fortnight I will become your president. I want to become the president of all the people of France – the president of the patriots in the face of the threat from the nationalists,” he said.
Marine Le Pen also made an “appeal to all patriots”, saying a vote for her was the key to the “survival of France”.
“Wherever they come from, whatever their origin, whatever they voted for in the first round, I invite them all to join us and to abandon ancient quarrels and to concentrate on what is essential for our country,” she said.
Marine Le Pen’s campaign for the Front National party centers on wanting to slash immigration, clamp down on free-trade, and overturn France’s relationship with Europe.
Emmanuel Macron was current President Francois Hollande’s economy minister but quit to create his own party, En Marche, which pushes a liberal, pro-EU agenda.
The 39-year-old could now become the youngest president France has ever had.
Various political rivals are now expected to unite in a bid to keep the Front National from power.
Benoit Hamon, the candidate of President Hollande’s Socialist Party who failed to make an impact in the first round, urged those who voted for him to support Emmanuel Macron in the next stage.
Francois Fillon has done the same.
As the results came in, Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation in front of an EU flag, giving hope to European leaders who are keen to strengthen the union after Brexit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffan Seibert, tweeted: “It’s good that Emmanuel Macron was successful with his course for a strong EU and social market economy. All the best for the next two weeks.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also congratulated Emmanuel Macron, as did EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
French voters are going to the polls to choose their next president, amid high security following a deadly attack on Champs Elysees three days ago.
About 50,000 police and 7,000 soldiers are being deployed across France to secure polling.
Eleven candidates are vying to be France’s next president, with leading candidates spanning the political spectrum from far-left to far-right.
The two with the most votes will go to a run-off round in a fortnight’s time.
Polling stations in France opened at 08:00 local time, although some overseas territories began the voting on April 22. Voting ends at 20:00, with exit polls expected quickly afterwards.
Four candidates are currently seen as being within reach of the presidency: conservative François Fillon, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Image source France24
The candidates have created plenty of debate in France, all offering dramatically different visions of Europe, immigration, the economy and French identity.
Extra security measures are in place on polling day after Karim Cheurfi, a convicted criminal, shot dead a police officer on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
Karim Cheurfi was killed by security forces and a note defending ISIS was found near his body.
National security had been one of the main talking points during the campaign, but candidates have been accused of exploiting the most recent attack for political gains.
The race between the leading contenders is considered too close to call.
However, no candidate is expected to get the 50% of votes required for an outright win.
A second round between the top two will be held on May 7.
Francois Fillon is the only one among the leading contenders from an established party of government.
Benoît Hamon, the socialist candidate from the same party as the current president, is seen as out of the running.