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EU Takes Centre Stage in 'Chaotic' French Presidential Debate

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The only candidate to passionately support the European Union was independent Emmanuel Macron, Ms. Le Pen's main rival for the presidency, who accused her of wanting to cause "economic war".

A snap poll after the debate had the firebrand leftist Jean Luc Melenchon taking first place as the most convincing performer after also putting Le Pen in his sights and on one occasion accusing her of trying to impose her views on the people of France.

France's centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron kept his position as favourite to win the upcoming election after a televised debate on Tuesday night.

And though Le Pen may see more eye-to-eye with President Trump than other candidates, Boston University worldwide relations professor William Keylor cautioned that a nationalist France wouldn't necessarily be a boon to the U.S.

Melenchon, 65, uttered one of the lines of the evening when he accused the moderators of having the "modesty of a gazelle" for failing to press right-wing candidate Francois Fillon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen over their legal problems.

While the Elabe poll did not show voting intentions, other surveys have consistently shown Macron and Le Pen qualifying for the 7 May runoff and Macron winning it.

The question of second preferences isn't just a curiosity in France, where the election system involves the top two candidates from the first round on April 23 competing in a runoff two weeks later.

Le Pen, leader of the National Front (FN) party, promised to restore control of France's borders and scrap the euro, or else hold a referendum on European Union membership.

While participation for presidential elections has been relatively high at around 80%, Mihr noted that recent polls have suggested that voter turnout might be nearer 66-76%, due to widespread dissatisfaction with the political class.

She's such a political force that, for many voters, the race is about Le Pen vs. the rest.

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Turning the topic to security, Ms Le Pen said that France had become a "university for jihadists", prompting angry interruptions from the left-wing candidates. We workers, we have to go when called, we do not have worker immunity, sorry.

The left's divisions have favored the emergence of Macron, a 39-year-old former economy minister of incumbent Socialist President Francois Hollande.

"With Fillon, the more you look the more corruption and cheating you find", he said.

The 63-year-old Republican's reputation has taken a hammering since allegations surfaced that he paid his wife and children for parliamentary work they did not do.

But a series of scandals involving the other candidates meant Macron is now center stage, with the keys to the Elysee Palace at his fingertips.

This debate is key as some candidates have said that they won't attend the final debate on April 20th, as it is too close to the election.

In a potential boost for Hamon though, Socialist Finance Minister Michel Sapin confirmed Thursday that he would vote for the party's official candidate.

Among Fillon supporters, 44 percent would take Macron and 24 percent Le Pen.

Le Pen denies wrongdoing.

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