The president of the French Republic, the centrist Emmanuel Macron, and the far-right candidate for the presidency of France, Marine Le Pen, face their first and only face-to-face this Wednesday. It is a decisive appointment, four days before the second round of the French elections, which will take place next Sunday. The journalists Andrea Rizzi and Guillermo Altares comment on the televised appointment, which EL PAÍS offers live and with simultaneous translation in the video that accompanies this news item. It also offers an alternative version with the original audio in French, which can be seen by clicking hereí.The polls give Macron an advantage. According to Ipsos, Macron would take 56.5% today and Le Pen 43.5%. In the first round, with more candidates, the current president got 27.8%. The leader of the National Rally (RN), 23.1%. It is the most open debate in recent years because both candidates seek to court a wide spectrum of undecided voters.
After the live broadcast, EL PAÍS will offer the possibility of rewatching the entire debate in both Spanish and French. A selection of head-to-head highlights will also be published.
Purchasing power, central element of the campaign
The debate addresses from the beginning the question of purchasing power. It has been one of the central issues of the campaign, a widespread concern in the public that Marine Le Pen has sought to take advantage of. The year-on-year inflation rate registered in March in France was 4.5%, a considerable level but half that of Spain. Le Pen presents herself in the debate as a “spokesperson” for the French, a rhetorical device typical of populism, and proposes tax cuts, in a country with one of the highest tax levels in the world (public collection was 52% of GDP in 2021). The far-right candidate seeks, underlining the difficulties of so many citizens to make ends meet, to criticize the balance of President Macron’s economic management.
Emmanuel Macron winks to the left
In his introductory speech – the candidates have started with a minute and a half to describe why they would be better presidents – Emmanuel Macron has sought a vote from the left, since he knows he needs to court the voters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon to win in the second round of elections on Sunday. One of the issues he has touched on is ecology, one of the issues on which voters reproach him for having been less active.
Marine Le Pen seeks the center vote
Unlike the 2017 debate, when Marine Le Pen faced Emmanuel Macron for the first time and came out very upset, this time the National Rally candidate is much calmer and smiling, trying to find a presidential image. Despite being a far-right candidate, her message is almost centrist. “I will be the presence of harmony, of civil peace”, she said after an introductory speech of a minute and a half in which she did not touch on any of the traditional themes of her party.
The television program with the only debate before the elections on Sunday will last two and a half hours. It will include eight blocks. They start with the purchasing power of citizens, one of the great themes of the campaign. The first to speak is Marine Le Pen. After that first block, they will talk about international politics, the French social model (pensions, health, dependency), the environment, competitiveness, youth (education, training, etc.), security and immigration and, finally, institutions. The order of interventions has been decided by a draw. Marine Le Pen will answer the first question and Emmanuel Macron will have priority in the conclusion.
A duel with transcendental consequences for Europe
The debate between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen is a key moment in a political duel whose importance transcends the borders of France. The two candidates defend radically different visions of their country’s role within the European Union and on the global stage. Together with Germany, France is the great driving force of the European project and a victory for Le Pen would represent an abrupt turnaround in community construction. The candidate pursues a profound reformulation of the EU, a withdrawal inspired by the idea of forming an alliance of sovereign nations without transferring extensive powers to community institutions as is currently the case. Le Pen also proposes France’s departure from NATO’s integrated command and maintains that, when the war in Ukraine ends, a close relationship with Putin’s Russia should be rebuilt.
The most important debate in the recent history of France
The debate that tonight confronts President Emmanuel Macron and the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is the most important since television confrontations between the two presidential rounds were held in 1974. Until now they have never changed an electoral result: the candidate for that the polls pointed to as the winner, he emerged comfortably victorious from the debate and confirmed his result the following Sunday. However, this time everything is much more complicated. It is no longer just an electoral race between two center-left and center-right blocs in which it was clear where the candidates were going to get their votes in the second round. This time, both are vying for the electorate of leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came third with 7.7 million votes and it is not at all clear where they will go. The future of France and Europe depends on it.
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