France’s future in the European Union was the main talking point for the country’s presidential candidates Tuesday night, in a four-hour debate described as a “cacophony”.
All 11 people standing for the French presidency took part in the epic debate, including less well known candidates polling barely above one per cent.
Front National leader Marine Le Pen was able to paint herself as a moderate against the words of her smaller rivals, telling François Asselineau, president of the obscure Popular Republican Union, her position was “less brutal” than his policy of unilaterally withdrawing from the EU.
Mr. Asselineau responded by accusing Ms. Le Pen of not really wanting ‘Frexit’, to which she responded: “The French will decide.”
The only candidate to passionately support the EU was independent Emmanuel Macron, Ms. Le Pen’s main rival for the presidency, who accused her of wanting to cause “economic war”.
“What you are proposing, Ms. Le Pen, is a reduction in French people’s purchasing power, because for savers and for workers, withdrawing from the euro will be a reduction in spending power,” he said.
The Front National leader accused Mr. Macron of pretending “to be something new when you are speaking like old fossils that are at least 50 years old”.
French daily Le Figaro called the debate a “cacophony” as the 11 candidates shouted at and interrupted one another for four hours.
The paper said things soon turned to confusion as the candidates debated “without much coherence”, with different candidates seeming to ally with others and then oppose them later.
Broadcaster France 24 also called the debate “more surreal than enlightening” and criticised the decision to allow all 11 candidates to debate.
“The open contest on the BFM TV and CNEWS networks, while laudable in principle, was absurd in effect with so much on the line. And the top candidates, many of whom have been openly lukewarm about contesting a similar third broadcast on April 20, might be wise to stay away.”