You are dependent on Putin. You took a loan from a Russian bank. When you talk to Russia, you talk to your banker, that’s the problem. ”
Emmanuel Macron’s criticism of Marine Le Pen is likely to remain one of the most memorable phrases in the only live televised debate between the president and the French nationalist leader, who is once again trying to enter the Elysee Palace.
It took place last night, and according to initial estimates, Macron was more convincing, although most viewers remain of the opinion that he still looks arrogant. Le Pen seemed more focused and without rudeness, unlike the disastrous debate for her in 2017, adds Reuters.
The important runoff for France and the EU is on Sunday, and according to a BFM TV poll immediately after the debate, 59% of viewers said the president was more convincing after nearly three hours of debate. This is close to the latest published polls, which predict a 56% result against 44% in favor of Macron on April 24. Ie rather, the debate has solidified Macron’s leadership position in popularity, and we are unlikely to see a shift in preferences in the coming days.
The president has been on the offensive most of the time, attacking Le Pen’s economic ideas and plans for EU and eurozone membership.
She found herself in a defensive position even on the issue of increased spending on households and businesses, which has become a central theme of this year’s campaign.
“I saw how people are suffering, how worried they are about the decline in their quality of life, about the insecurity they feel everywhere,” Le Pen said.
Macron asked her why she had voted against his plans to have a ceiling on electricity prices if he wanted so badly to help the worst affected workers.
The fact that the president often interrupted his opponent – to the extent that he wanted to let her finish his sentence – played a role in the assessment of 50% of viewers for Elabe that Macron behaved arrogantly against 16% of the same opinion about her. In addition, 37% of respondents said that Le Pen seemed closer to the problems of the people compared to 34% who think so about Macron.
Le Pen is trying to win over younger voters with leftist sympathies by criticizing “I’m by no means a climate skeptic, but you’re a climate hypocrite.” According to her, free trade is what is killing the planet, and Macron has wasted 10 years destabilizing the nuclear industry, which is now needed to become the foundation of France’s carbon-free energy mix.
“Stop mixing things up,” was another of the president’s criticisms of her opponent over her ideas on how to manage France’s debts. With a few more tricks, he made her appear unprepared to run the country with the EU’s second-largest economy, a UN veto, and a nuclear arsenal. “Le Pen remained scary for half the spectators,” said Bernard Sanen of Elabe.
Even before the clash between the two, only 14% of voters thought the debate would decide who to vote for. For 12%, the event was said to be decisive in whether to go to the polls at all, according to a survey by OpinionWay-Kea Partners for the business publication Les Echos.
Poverty and levels of education are at the forefront of the French election
As French President Emmanuel Macron and Marin Le Pen head to the presidential run-off on April 24, promising to tackle high inflation, an analysis of first-round voting data shows that the far-right candidate has an advantage in low-income areas, most – severely affected by rising costs.
Sensing people’s frustration with rising inflation, Le Pen turned his campaign from his usual anti-immigration, Eurosceptic message to how it would help restore family budgets.
Macron won 27.8% of the vote against 23.2% of Le Pen in the first round of voting on Sunday, but there were major regional differences with electoral “front lines” outlined along local economic, social, and demographic lines.
Demographic analysis of the results showed that Le Pen’s promise resonated most in areas with lower living standards, where more people do not graduate from high school, have lower life expectancies, and suffer more crime.
The analysis also suggests that Macron will have a hard time reaching voters outside his base of educated middle-class urban dwellers.
In its analysis, Reuters uses a machine-learning algorithm to rank 45 demographic and economic variables according to how well they relate to candidates’ performance in regional administrative regions known in France as departments.
As in 2017, economic well-being and levels of education were key determinants of whether different groups tended towards Macron or Le Pen, although the link to a higher standard of living was stronger this time around for Macron.
Conversely, Macron did worse and Le Pen did much better in areas of greater poverty. On average, 12.7% of the population lives in poverty in areas where Macron ranks first, and 16% in which Le Pen receives the most votes.
With record-high inflation, polls have repeatedly shown that declining purchasing power is a major concern for voters before elections.
Official government figures show that France has seen a significant improvement in gross disposable income during Macron’s term, although the rise in inflation over the past six months has been eating away at it.
But his poor performance in places with high unemployment and low incomes suggests he is best offsetting the trend with various messages and promises of help.
A government package of 25 billion euros (1% of France’s economic output) to help people cope with high energy prices and inflation has done little to alleviate voters’ concerns.
The factor most closely linked to Le Pen’s performance is life expectancy, which often serves as a barometer of overall economic and social well-being. In the departments where Le Pen was in the first place, women have a life expectancy one year shorter than in the places where Macron won.
In the two industrial northern departments where Le Pen performed best – Anne and Pas-de-Calais – women’s life expectancy were two years below the national average. In Anne, where Le Pen achieved his best result in the first round with 39% of the vote, nearly 30% of residents do not have high school diplomas, compared to the national average of 21%.
The first place for the campaign after Sunday’s vote was a meeting of Macron in the poor northern city of Dennen.
Going to the runoff, both Macron and Le Pen will seek votes from supporters of hard-line leader Jean-Luc Melanchon, who finished third in the first round just after Le Pen with 22% of the vote.
The veteran did best in urban areas with a higher proportion of young, highly educated voters who believe Macron has strayed too far to their liking.
Melanchon won almost half of the vote in the northeastern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, where immigrants make up more than 30% of the population – the largest share in France.
With these votes, Le Pen and Macron will first have to persuade the people in the department to simply bother to vote, as there are more abstentions than anywhere else outside Corsica.
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