Millions of French voters watch Macron-Le Pen debate ahead of Sunday’s second round: NPR

0

French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marin Le Pen met on Wednesday evening in their only debate ahead of Sunday’s second round of presidential elections.



STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen met last night in their only debate ahead of Sunday’s ballot for President of France. Millions of French voters watched, as did NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MODERATOR: Good evening, Marine Le Pen. Good evening.

MARINE LE PEN: Good evening.

UNIDENTIFIED MODERATOR: Good evening, Emmanuel Macron.

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: Good evening.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Macron and Le Pen had 2.5 hours to debate the biggest issues facing France and lay out their visions for the future. Two moderators kept them on topic. Two giant stopwatches kept them on time. Analysts say Le Pen had to make up for his disastrous performance against Macron in their debate five years ago.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MACRON: (Speaking French).

LE PEN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Le Pen tried to attack Macron and her record and show how she would do things differently, but her vast knowledge of each issue made that difficult. On several occasions, Macron pointed out that Le Pen’s plans were inconsistent. Speaking of energy, she said she would dismantle wind turbines and only use nuclear. Macron explained why France needed both. He asked her how she planned to finance projects like retirement for all at 62. She didn’t really get an answer. Thierry Arnaud is the editorial director of the BFM Business television channel.

THIERRY ARNAUD: Sometimes she gets confused, and she mixes up the details. And you know that facing Emmanuel Macron, you cannot afford it because he will be aware of all the subjects. And his ability to – you know, dig into any kind of subject matter is always pretty impressive.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Asked about the European Union, Macron credited the bloc with important advances like the creation and distribution of the COVID vaccine. Being part of the EU means being able to stand up to China and compete with the United States, he said. While Le Pen no longer advocates leaving the EU, an idea that proved unpopular with French voters after Brexit, she complained that the EU’s unfair open competition laws were hurting French producers . Yves Threard, columnist at Le Figaro newspaper, told French television that Le Pen had the wrong debate strategy.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YVES THREARD: (Through interpreter) She wasn’t able to effectively attack Macron and his record, and she presented her ideas, but they weren’t developed enough. So when she spoke about the EU, a major topic, he rightly pointed out that her policy was still a de facto Frexit.

BEARDSLEY: The candidates also clashed over secularism.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LE PEN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Le Pen called the Muslim hijab a uniform imposed by the Islamists. She said she wanted to ban him in public. Macron jumped. He said it would make France, a country of enlightenment and human rights, the first to ban religious symbols in public. It’s not in line with our values, he said, and it would be impossible to enforce. On the war in Ukraine, Le Pen condemned the invasion of Russia, but she seemed embarrassed when Macron gave details of a loan her party received several years ago from a Russian bank linked to the Kremlin.

(SOUND EXCERPT FROM AN ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: “You cannot take a strong position on Russia because you depend on Russian power and Mr. Putin,” Macron said, referring to the Russian president. “Vladimir Putin is your banker.” A post-debate poll showed that 59% of French people were convinced by Mr. Macron compared to 39% by Mrs. Le Pen. Voters head to the polls on Sunday to choose between the two.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

Copyright © 2022 NRP. All rights reserved. Visit the Terms of Use and Permissions pages of our website at www.npr.org for more information.

NPR transcripts are created in peak time by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative recording of NPR’s programming is the audio recording.

Share.

Comments are closed.