French President Emmanuel Macron was found to be more convincing than far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in a pre-election debate on French television ahead of Sunday’s presidential runoff vote, an opinion poll showed.
The snap survey by Elabe for BFM TV found that 59% of polled viewers found Macron more convincing than Le Pen. In 2017, the same polling firm found that 63% of those surveyed found Macron more convincing.
Polls of voting intentions for the April 24 election estimate that Macron will win with around 55.5% of the vote. In 2017, Macron beat Le Pen with 66.1% of the vote.
“Yes, Emmanuel Macron won but his adversary has avoided a repeat of last time’s disaster,” Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador said on Twitter. “This debate doesn’t disqualify her like the one in 2017, but it doesn’t help her close the gap either.”
On the offensive for most of the debate, Macron’s most piercing line of attack was on a loan to Le Pen’s party for her 2017 campaign contracted through a Russian bank.
“You talk about your banker when you talk about Russia, that’s the problem,” Macron told his opponent. “You depend on Russian power, you depend on Mr. Putin.” Read full story
On the cost of living, rated the most important issue for the French in this election, Macron also appeared to put Le Pen on the defensive, asking her why she had voted against his plans to cap electricity prices if she wanted to help hard-up workers.
‘ARROGANT VS. SCARY’
Still, during the debate Macron failed to dispel an image of haughtiness that has taken root during his presidency. He interrupted his rival repeatedly with lines like “Mrs Le Pen is much more disciplined than five years ago”, and “Stop mixing everything up”.
“Mr Macron, stop lecturing me,” Le Pen retorted. By contrast, she adopted a much more courteous and softer tone than in 2017, even going so far as to applaud Macron’s diplomatic efforts to prevent war in Ukraine.
An Elabe snap opinion poll on each candidate’s personal characteristics showed 50% of the French thought Macron had come across as arrogant during the debate, while only 16% thought Le Pen had.
Le Pen also appeared marginally more in tune with regular citizens, with 37% of viewers saying she sounded closer to people’s concerns, while only 34% thought Macron did.
She also delivered a memorable punchline, which may resonate with left-wing and younger voters who think Macron has not done enough to combat climate change, despite his early-mandate slogan “Make our planet great again”.
“I am not a climate sceptic, but you’re a bit of a climate hypocrite,” Le Pen quipped.
But Macron’s mastery of policy details made him look more “presidential”, the same Elabe poll showed, while she failed to convince a majority of viewers she was fit to govern.
“Each of them has a huge weakness,” Bernard Sananes of pollster Elabe said. “Emmanuel Macron is considered arrogant by more than one in two viewers. And Marine Le Pen remains scary for half of them.”