Four days before the second round of the elections, the TV debate between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron was crucial and aggressive.
For about two and a half hours, both candidates presented two radical visions of France. They talked about economy and employment, terrorism, Europe, international affairs and school.
To start: critics over critics
Le Pen attacked Macron straight away by saying he was the candidate of the elites, “the product of the system”. She said that unlike Macron, nothing is to sell in her project.
“Emmanuel Macron is the perfect product of the system and these days between the two round is perfectly showing this” Marine Le Pen
She said the centrist candidate project was about conflicts of interests, submission and a lack of political vision. Macron replied by saying National Front leader kept attacking his project because she did not have any. He said Le Pen based herself on lies “as always”.
Protectionism VS liberalism
On economy, the visions are radically opposed. Macron admitted that previous governments failed to tackle unemployment. His solution is to create more jobs, to be more flexible and to focus on small and medium companies. Le Pen replied that he would only give power to the big groups. She said she would protect jobs and state assets with protectionism trade measures. He said that she was making a lot of promises to everyone but did not say where the money would come from to finance them.
“We need new laws for the workplace, more flexible and more autonomous”. Emmanuel Macron
Le Pen replied that French people deserve to have their money back from the European Union. Macron pointed out that the UK has to pay “between 60 and 80 billion euros” to leave the EU. Le Pen said she would negotiate. She mentioned that the UK has never been better after leaving the European Union. Macron replied the UK was not part of the euro zone.
“There is no way the Law of the Strongest takes the lead on our country”. Marine Le Pen
The issue of “Medical desert”
On the question concerning the reimbursement of the social welfare, Marine Le Pen said that we need to save money without reducing existing financial assistance. She wants to do it by selling pharmaceutical drugs one by one for example. Then she talked about the lack of doctors available in certain French regions. We do not have enough doctors and we have to get them abroad. She also wants to lower the tax rates for doctors ready to retire to make them stay.
“ I want to lower the price of drugs to reimburse them more easily.” Marine Le Pen
She concluded by attacking Macron on the fact that one member of his team would have been part of the laboratory Servier.
Emmanuel Macron answered that 80% of the drugs are from abroad. He continued by saying that Le Pen wants to tax import and that would increase the drugs’ prices.
Both agreed on the fact that France needed to boost french laboratories and medical research.
In regards to the “medical desert”, Marcon thinks there needs to be a better organisation. He wants to improve the access to specialists in these parts of the country to avoid going to overbooked hospitals. He talked about overseas territories such as the French Guyana. Macron emphasized on the fact that France was spending more to bring overseas citizens to the European continent rather than improving the facilities there.
In general, the En Marche! candidate wants to reduce audition and optic spendings and clarify the social protection cover. To do so he wants to create only three contracts. Finally, he wants to fight the numerous closures in medical universities.
When will French people retire?
Marine Le Pen wants to bring the retirement age back to 60 after 40 years of work. She wants to do it by the end of her mandate but the fastest would be the best. Then, she disapproved of how Emmanuel Macron blames French people on the bad situation of the country. Le Pen says that f there are difficulties with the French retirement, it is because of the previous government in which Macron was a part of. The unemployment is a consequence of Macron’s work. According to the National Front’s candidate, we need to fight globalisation to save France.
“I stick with that: in France, we should retire at 60 if we have worked for 40 years” Marine Le Pen
“I want the same retirememt pensions system for everyone.” Emmanuel Macron
To answer Le Pen’s proposition of bringing the retirement age back to 60, he said that this would cost 30 billion euros. He reminds that it was like that under Francois Mitterrand when the life expectancy was 10 years lower. He emphasises on the fact that Le Pen does not explain how she will save money in this field. The En Marche! candidate reminded Le Pen of his program and his idea to create a similar regime for everyone. He finally warns that he his realistic and that the change will be put in place slowly.
Terrorism: two views, two plans
On terrorism, Le Pen said it was a major issue and was missing in Macron’s programme. She said she wanted to get rid of Islamic fundamentalism for good, by throwing out all of the “fichés S” straight away, closing Salafist mosques and eradicating the ideology. A “fiché S”, “S card” in English, is an indicator on law enforcement to flag an individual considered as a threat to national security. Several times, Le Pen asked him to explain how, as he said, “France has a part of responsibility in the “breeding-ground” of jihadism”. He explains he wants to go further than just deport “fichés S”, and look at the problem from its roots.
She accused Macron of being over-indulgent with them and submitted to them, referring to “the support of the Union of French Islamic Organizations to Macron’s candidacy” which she asserted is linked with extremism. The En Marche! candidate replied that if the UOIF was conducting any activities against the Republic, he would make it stop. Le Pen also said she would create 40,000 prison places.
“I will lead a fight against Islamist terrorism at every level. But what they are wanting, the trap they are holding out for us, is the one that you offer – civil war.” Emmanuel Macron
Macron replied that terrorism was his priority and as the President of France, and therefore chief of the army, he would be in charge of the security. He said he will give more means to the police so they can protect themselves.
He reminded that since November 2015, controls at the borders in the Schengen Area allowed the arrest of 70,000 people.
The En Marche! candidate said that closing the borders will not change anything to the problem and that the countries should work together on intelligence and cooperation. He said that the risk of Le Pen as a president would be division and a civil war, and that was exactly what terrorists were looking for.
“On security and intelligence, we need more cooperation between EU members.” Emmanuel Macron
On security, Le Pen said the law should be applied to everyone and everywhere, which she said was not the case and especially in lawless areas. Macron said that community police should be put back in place. He also said that for small crimes, the police should be able to give fines.
“You have no plan (on security) but you are indulgent with Islamist fundamentalism.” Marine Le Pen
Marine Le Pen’s answer to Emmanuel Macron saying that she fuels the words full of hate of extremist supporters
European Union or Europe of Nations
On Europe, Le Pen said she was against the EU but insisted she was a European. She accused Macron of being submitted to a European federalism and he was extremist. She wants to be free from big firms and central banks and Angela Merkel. “I know the whole system will defend Macron” she said.
“The next French President will be a woman: me or Angela Merkel.” Marine Le Pen
Macron replied he wants to build a European policy and a strong euro. He said that we should preserve French interests within a strong EU.
“The euro is the currency of bankers, not that of the people,” Marine Le Pen
“What you propose is currency war.” Emmanuel Macron
A French reassertion on the international stage
On international affairs, Macron said he was against protectionism, nationalism and isolationism. “What you suggest, is to leave History” he told Le Pen. He wants to work with Donald Trump on major issues such as climate change and that he would not be submitted to Vladimir Putin, “unlike Mrs Le Pen”.
“I will tell Mr Trump I want to keep working together on climate change”
“I will not just suffer the policy of Vladimir Putin.” Emmanuel Macron
The Front National candidate said that France is not respected anymore because the country lost its voice and it could happen only when it will be independent again. A statement to which Macron replied “if you would be elected, the world would look at us differently”.
“Russia is a great nation and has not done anything to France in particular” Marine Le Pen
A need to reform the education
On education, Macron insisted that more should be done on primary school and everywhere inequalities are being created. For him, the number of schoolchildren in “educational priority areas” should be reduced and students should be trained and not only have a diploma.
“People from modest origins, they have a baccalauréat but they don’t know what to do after leaving school. I want more transparency and to develop apprenticeship” Emmanuel Macron
Le Pen insisted on the French learning process and secularity. She accused the socialists of having ruined education.
“We have destroyed the French school system. We must refocus it on the knowledge of French.” Marine Le Pen
The candidates talked about affairs and Macron told Le Pen that “the party of the affairs, it is yours”. “Is it mine?” she answered, “I hope we won’t learn anything in the following days and weeks. No one understood your explanations over your estate”, before adding “I hope we won’t learn that you have an offshore account in the Bahamas”.
Today, the former banker said it was defamation.
The “White card”
At the end of the debate, both candidates had a “white card”. En Marche! leader chose to talk about handicap situations. He said more pragmatism should be done, especially toward autism. Le Pen accused Macron of defending trading rooms and putting people against one another to get less paid and to work longer.
“We can say whatever you want but I want to defend this beautiful country that is France ” Marine Le Pen
Macron replied that her whole project was based on lies and played with the population fears. Instead, he promised an efficient project that aimed to construct with the population and transform the whole country.
“What just happened is a representation of who you are” “You choose to attack the opponent and not defend your project” Emmanuel Macron
Conclusions modelled on their prestations
To conclude this debate, Marine Le Pen described the France she loves: a millenary France with a proper culture. She attacked her opponent saying that he simply wants to close everything: hospitals, companies, etc. “The only thing he doesn’t want to close are the borders”. According to her, Macron is in the hands of the communitarianism and his project promotes the complete destruction of our national identity.
Following the Front National’s candidate, Emmanuel Macron talked about a France in crisis. A crisis linked to the same politics since more than twenty years. He claims having heard the anger and wanting to answer with the truth. The En Marche! candidate wants the French citizens to be brave starting at school, in their work and with the French language. A language that helped him grow as a French citizen. He explained that with him, France will be a place where citizens will be protected. He concluded by saying “We have always been a generous country and not the country of obscurantism.
Credits Featured image: CHAMUSSY/SIPA