Le Pen Pushes Faltering Macron In Debate on Immigration, Islamism and Economy

A picture shows a TV screen displaying French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN)
LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen duked it out on Wednesday evening, with the populist challenger pressuring the President in a debate on subjects including Islamism, immigration and the economy.

Neither Emmanuel Macron nor his populist rival Marine Le Pen showed any mercy during the French presidential election’s climactic debate on Wednesday evening, an event that was predicted to be the deciding moment in the campaign for the Élysée Palace.

However — unlike the one-sided bloodbath which took place in 2017 — the war of words did not seem to end with a definitive victor, with both candidates giving as good as they got judging by the response from the general public.

According to a report by Le Monde, the candidates fought over a wide range of topics during the nearly three-hour political brawl, ranging from discussions over Le Pen’s perceived closeness to Russia and Macron’s gratuitous acquiescence to the European Union.

The economy also served as a major flashpoint for the two politicians, with Le Pen pressuring Macron over his various failings during his past five years in office, while promising significant tax cuts for the average Frenchman during a time of rapid inflation.

Macron hit back with the accusation that Le Pen would lead France into a “civil war” should she be elected to the highest office thanks to her proposed policy that would see the Muslim hijaab headscarf banned in public spaces.

Le Pen did not take this accusation lying down however, defending her policy as a method of combatting Islamic extremism, and not as an attempt to curtail religious freedom in France. Indeed, a study from the Paris School of Economics this year which has been in the French media recently has found banning the veil in school has actually increased academic attainment for impacted girls, something which may count in Le Pen’s favour in the minds of some voters.

The Rassemblement National also once again pushed her promise that she would hold a referendum on immigration, an idea that seemingly offended Macron, who claimed that the “posturing” position was not in keeping with France’s democratic system, though Le Pen retorted that his actions over the last five years had certainly not been in keeping with how France’s democracy traditionally functions either.

While some have seemed to conclude that the debate resulted in no clear winner, it seems it will be Le Pen who is most satisfied with the result of the clash.

Having been wiped off the debating floor so badly in the 2017 clash that to this day she refuses to watch or listen to a recording of, the veteran populist candidate came out guns blazing on Wednesday evening, reportedly finding herself capable of responding to challenging questions put to her by Macron.

What’s more, the outsider candidate also put Macron under serious pressure over his closeness to the European Union regarding the ongoing difficulties facing French farmers, forcing the faltering La République En Marche leader to try and explain how he was committed to supporting French agriculture without throwing the EU under the proverbial bus.

With that said, those in the President’s camp are also likely breathing a sigh of relief with the debate now over, with the often bravado-prone centrist managing to keep his cool throughout proceedings, something some seemingly feared he wouldn’t be able to do.

The apparent stalemate result of the debate also is likely to favour Macron, with the President still maintaining a slim but seemingly stable lead over Madame Le Pen in the polls.

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