No winner on the night – that was the verdict by most viewers following a televised debate between France’s five leading presidential candidates.
That is not to say tempers didn’t flare at times – but for the 40 percent of undecided voters, there was little to help them choose.
One of the most heated exchanges involved the two front runners. Far right Marine Le Pen said France should oppose multiculturalism when the issue of the full-body “burkini” swimsuit worn by some Muslim women arose. It’s a issue which created weeks of controversy in France last summer.
Centrist and business friendly Emmanuel Macron accused his rival of making enemies of Muslims and of twisting the truth.
If Macron wins the French election, It may confirm that, rather than far-right take-over, we are actually seeing a pro-EU, liberal boost.— Lady LeMur (@leialisbon) March 20, 2017
While polls have Macron and Le Pen establishing a clear lead in the first round vote, former favourite, conservative Francois Fillon has dipped in popularity. His supporters saw the debate as a chance for him to rise above the scandal surrounding the employment of his wife and to resurrect his campaign.
Only two candidates will go through from the April 23 vote to the second round on May 7. But they are unlikely to be the Socialist Party’s Benoit Hamon or leftist Jean Luc Melenchon although the latter’s razor wit went down well with viewers.
It was the first time a televised debate has been held before the first round of a French presidential election – normally it’s just before the run-off. Voters will get a chance to see all 11 candidates on a TV special next month.
Reminder: The #frenchelection is very important!! #Marine2017 #DebatTF1 pic.twitter.com/8cV2Id6zKV— crackrabbit (@vaporlols) March 20, 2017