05/05/2017 | 4PM
Emmanuel Macron appeared to have kept his frontrunner status against Marine Le Pen after a bruising live TV presidential debate days before the final vote this weekend in which the centrist and far-right candidates traded venomous personal insults and clashed over how to fix the sluggish French economy and fight terrorism.
In the prolonged two-and-a-half-hour slanging match that featured more invective than any other debate in French presidential history, Macron branded Front National candidate Le Pen an ill-informed, corrupt, dangerously nationalistic and “hate-filled” liar who “fed off France’s misery” and would bring “civil war” to France.
She in turn called the former economy minister an arrogant, spoilt, cold-eyed, “smirking banker” who was colluding with Islamists, complacent on terrorism and intent on “butchering France” in favour of “big economic interests”.
Both accused the other of taking French people for imbeciles. At one point, after a long attack saying Le Pen was lying to the French public, Macron snapped: “I’m sorry, Madame Le Pen; France deserves better than you.”
French media on Thursday (4) declared Macron the winner of a “dirty debate”. Le Pen was criticised for her “permanent aggression” and even normally sympathetic publications found her “unconvincing”.
With information from The Guardian