Le Pen and Macron prepare for showdown TV debate

Le Pen and Macron prepare for showdown TV debate

PARIS — Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are preparing for their one chance for a knockout in the French presidential election race in their only one-on-one debate.

Much is at stake for both contenders, who are expected to square off Wednesday for more than two hours in their final showdown before Sunday’s runoff vote.

Le Pen, has been setting the pace in the finale of the campaign with a well-oiled communication strategy that included a surprise visit at a factory just before her rival arrived, but the latest opinion polls show the pro-EU Macron holding a strong lead over his far-right rival.

The 39-year-old Macron, who has been criticized for his early celebrations after he finished nearly three points ahead of Le Pen in the first-round vote April 23, needs to convince leftist voters that his pro-business and liberal stance should not deter them from supporting him.

Le Pen, who has softened her anti-EU message over the past 10 days to broaden her political reach, is expected to hammer home her favourite themes of security and identity as she tries to lure traditional rightist voters who supported Francois Fillon in the first round. Fillon, a former prime minister, finished third with some 20 per cent of the votes and polls suggest that as many as a third of Fillon’s voters will choose Le Pen in the second round.

Both candidates will also go after backers of far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who refused to endorse either finalist in a race which he says pits “the extreme right” against “extreme finance” — a jab at Macron’s career in banking.

Macron said this week he heard the “anger” of those who voted for populist candidates, while Le Pen, who tried to portray herself as the candidate of the people, called on the 7 million backers of Melenchon to “block” Macron.

The 48-year-old Le Pen should stay faithful to her colorful style and attack her rival head-on. Macron says he wants “to fight hand-to-hand, to fight in substance and demonstrate that her ideas are fake solutions.”

Le Pen used a tweet to associate Macron to his mentor in politics, the unpopular President Francois Hollande.

“If Mr. Macron does not feel at ease, he still can ask Francois Hollande to come and hold his hand, I won’t oppose it,” Le Pen wrote.

Wednesday’s debate marks the first time that a National Front candidate is taking part in the pre-runoff TV debate. In 2002, when Jean-Marie Le Pen — Marine’s father — made it to the second round, Jacques Chirac refused to appear with the far-right party co-founder, explaining that he did not want to contribute to the normalization of hatred and intolerance.

The campaign is unfolding amid unprecedented security, with France under a state of emergency after multiple attacks by Islamic extremists. Hollande called on Wednesday “for the utmost vigilance and the mobilization of all state means to allow the smooth running of the second round of voting for the presidential election.”

Samuel Petrequin, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Kelowna’s Gospel Mission serves annual Christmas dinner

Between 700 to 800 meals were served Saturday to the community

Your weekend story highlights

Every Saturday, the Capital News will highlight stories from the week

The Paperboys visit Kelowna

Check out the Rotary Centre for the Arts Jan. 27

Let it snow in Kelowna

Snow is in the forecast for this week

Photos: Adventuring in Stuart Park

Have you seen Friday’s edition of the Capital News? Check out the photos featured

All aboard the Summerland Christmas Express

The first train of the Summerland Christmas Express schedule.

All aboard the Summerland Christmas Express

The first train of the Summerland Christmas Express schedule.

Meningococcal clinics open this Sunday

Interior Health is stepping up efforts to get young people vaccinated against Meningococcal.

Update: RCMP arrest domestic assault suspect west of Kamloops.

The RCMP Emergency Response Team made the arrest at around 4:30 p.m.

Owl found dead after eating rat poison leaves B.C. woman concerned

After finding the owl on her Surrey property, Christine Trozzo says the poison is a concern for kids

Change to CPP death benefit panned as insufficient to cover funeral costs

Funeral Services Association of Canada lobbied governments to raise the value to $3,580

#MeToo at work: Employers play a role in fixing culture of sexual harassment

B.C. workplaces are getting ahead of being the next MeToo debacle, calling on experts to train staff

B.C. woman brain injured in crash as a baby gets $1.1 million in damages

Trial heard the woman was 16 months old, being carried by her mother when they were both hit

Most Read