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All eyes on Le Pen in fierce live debate

All eyes were on a key election debate broadcast live last night in France between the presidential candidates.

Published: April 5, 2017, 9:53 am

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    Trump strategist Steve Bannon and Penelope Fillon sat behind Le Pen during the debate.

    “What I see here around this table is 10 out of 11 candidates who approve in principle of the EU and all propose to renegotiate,” said Francois Asselineau, who has the support of only 0.5 percent of the electorate, according to pollster Ifop. “I am the only candidate of Frexit, which is to say the exit from the European Union,” Asselineau declared.

    But Front National leader Marine Le Pen was not impressed. “What you are proposing is a brutal exit but you can’t say that my way isn’t clear,” Le Pen said. “I want the French to decide. There will be a negotiation and whatever the result, the people will have their say.” The 48-year-old candidate said she will “negotiate” to restore French national sovereignty.

    Polls consistently show that more than two thirds of French voters want to remain part of the euro, and are concerned about Marine’s plans, especially with older voters who may be like her nationalist message but fear for their savings.

    Le Pen has promised a referendum on Frexit. “The referendum is a way for Le Pen to avoid totally embracing the euro exit, it provides her with a slight back door,” said Bruno Cautres, a political scientist at Sciences Po in Paris.

    Le Pen said on Tuesday investors won’t pull their money from France if it gives up the EU single currency. “There’s so much liquidity in the world that they are not going to pull their chips out of France, above all when France will once again be back on the road to economic growth,” she told French Sud Radio and TV channel Public Senat.

    According to Le Pen, investors “are worried because they know they will no longer be able to make the profits they made previously”. She added: “The world has changed, and that’s what’s worrying them. The world is moving away from free trade and laissez-faire policy.”

    The FN frontrunner has promised to take France out of what she called “the prison” of European Union politics. During Sunday’s political rally in Bordeaux she said the euro currency was like a knife in the ribs of the French people.

    “We are at the mercy of a currency adapted to Germany and not to our economy. The euro is mostly a knife stuck in our ribs to make us go where others want us to go,” Le Pen said. The yield gap between French and German government two-year bonds, is now at its highest level since 2012, amid the rising chances of a victory for the anti-Brussels candidate.

    The leader of the National Front has promised to curb migration, expel all illegal migrants and restrict certain rights now available to all residents, including free education.

    “Marine Le Pen’s score was quite mediocre because she had competition on the anti-European issue,” Elabe pollster Bernard Sananes told Bloomberg after the debate. Le Pen took a lot of fire from all the candidates, with Emannuel Macron coming out strongly against her.

    Macron highlighted the risks of leaving the euro, and Le Pen’s family ties, with her father Jean-Marie’s history of “racism”.

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