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Candidates for the 2017 presidential election REUTERS/Patrick Kovarik/Pool - RTX31WQ7


Le grand débat: French presidential candidates dedicate 1st debate to denouncing Le Pen

March 21, 2017

The first televised debate in the race for the French presidency took place Monday evening in a three-and-a-half-hour-long exchange that addressed everything from the refugee crisis, to terrorism, to France’s place in the ever-changing E.U. While there are officially eleven candidates in the race for the highest office in France, only the five principal candidates were invited to participate.

Allotted 30 minutes of speaking time each, organized discussion quickly gave way to name-calling when the other candidates seemingly banded together to lash out at Marine Le Pen, the representative of the far-right Front National party — and the only female candidate among the hopefuls.

Le Pen, who has been vocal about her desire to hold a Brexit-like referendum on France’s E.U. membership, faced her most vehement criticism from her fellow candidates. “You want to drag the country into social and economic chaos,” accused fellow right-leaning candidate François Fillon while Benôit Hamon, the Socialist party candidate, called her remarks during the evening “nauseating.”

Despite the belligerent comments, Le Pen focused the bulk of her discourse on issues of security, calling the current situation in France “explosive.” “I want to put an end to immigration — that’s clear,” Le Pen declared. Addressing what she believes to be the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in France, she elicited the most impassioned response of the evening from Emmanuel Macron, the independent candidate, when she insinuated that he was in favor of the burkini, a clothing item that became a hot-button topic in France when it was banned on public beaches by several mayors last year. “No, Madame Le Pen don’t put words in my mouth. I don’t need the talent of a ventriloquist. When I have something to say, I will say so myself,” Macron announced.

Thus far, the campaign season has been plagued with controversy as both the Front National and François Fillon himself have come under fire for the misuse of taxpayer money. While viewers had expected the candidates to address the scandal, their banter managed to steer clear of the ongoing investigation. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the the far-left candidate, applauded what he described as the candidates “prudishness of gazelles” in avoiding the topic altogether.

Despite the evening’s disagreements, current poll numbers reflect that Le Pen and Macron are the most likely candidates to move on to the second and final round of the election process. Watch highlights from the contentious debate below.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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