Published: Wed, March 22, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

France's Le Pen focuses on terrorism in Chad leader visit

A daily Opinionway poll on Monday showed Le Pen maintaining the lead in terms of vote intentions with 27 percent in the first round, ahead of Macron's 23 percent and Fillon's 18 percent.

The debate, and the two others that will follow ahead of the April 23 first round, are seen as key in an election in which almost 40 per cent of voters say they are not sure who to back.

Former economy minister Macron, the most europhile of the candidates, noted that "all those who said Brexit will be wonderful.ran away and hid".

When she talked about a rise in radical Islam and said Mr Macron was in favour of the burkini, which is worn by some Muslim women, he replied: "You are failing voters by twisting the truth". An accusation the former investment banker did not accept, saying he was the only candidate not funded by public money.

"That's called Project Fear, Mr Fillon".

The moves came after an Elabe poll ( showed 29% of viewers who watched Monday's night debate thought Macron was the most convincing candidate ( to become the next president. "When I have something to say, I say clearly", Macron fired back. The poll found Macron would easily beat Le Pen in the May 7 runoff.

Fillon, accused of paying his wife a generous salary for work she may not have done, has been put under formal investigation, a first for a French presidential candidate.

Six other candidates were excluded according to Le Monde newspaper: Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Nathalie Arthaud, Philippe Poutou, Jacques Cheminade, Jean Lassalle, Francois Asselineau.

"We have of course discussed the cooperation between France and Chad in the fight against terrorism", the National Front party candidate said after the meeting with Deby in Am-Djarass, near the borders with Libya and Sudan. The ex-prime minister appeared tired and at times absent during the debate.

European Affairs Minister Michael Roth told German broadcaster SWR2 that he viewed French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron and his unabashed support for Europe as "remarkably positive".

Of the 11 candidates in the election, only the five who are expected to be the largest vote-getters in the first round were included in the debate.

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