Published: Wed, March 22, 2017
Markets | By Terence Owen

Euro Climbs to Six-Week High Following Presidential Debate in France

Centrist Emmanuel Macron's bid for power in France gathered pace on Tuesday when he won support from a junior minister in the Socialist government while the interior minister resigned amid scandal in a new twist to the topsy-turvy presidential campaign.

Following the TV debate, 22 percent expressed their desire to see Macron win the presidential election, compared to 20 percent for Le Pen and 18 percent for Fillon, the poll said.

The debate, the first face-off held before the presidential election's first round, kicked off with education and social issues, with the tone among the five candidates being respectful.

The debate covered a wide assortment of issues, like education, security, unemployment, ecology, work guarantees, the defense and institutional reforms, which allowed politicians to put forward their proposals, in a discussion where presenting their projects was the most important issue.

"I may have committed a few mistakes".

Socialist candidate Hamon, 49, attracted a crowd of 20,000 to a Paris rally on Sunday, but with his staunchly leftist platform he is seen by many as representing the rump of a party in disarray. "Do not use it to divide the French", he said, accusing Le Pen of transforming "the over four million French people, whose religion is Islam.into enemies of the Republic".

"We are facing the instability that emerged with the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States". A high abstention rate could benefit Le Pen as polls consistently show that her supporters are the most certain of their vote.

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It welcomed the focus on policy after a campaign so far overshadowed by Fillon's expenses woes and Le Pen's refusal to meet investigating magistrates over claims she misused European Parliament allowances.

Le Pen said she wanted to take back control of French borders to "stop immigration, legal and illegal".

One of the most heated exchanges in Monday's debate came between the two frontrunners, after Le Pen accused Macron of being in favour of the burkini, a full-body swimsuit worn by Muslim women that created weeks of controversy in France last summer.

Macron, a former investment banker, vowed during a visit to Berlin last week to reform the French economy if elected to restore trust with Germany and move Europe forward.

François Fillon of the center right, whose financial scandal has relegated him to third place, said he wanted France to keep "the protection afforded by the European Central Bank".

Ms Le Pen said she did not want to be president of some "vague region of the European Union" or the "vice chancellor of Mrs Merkel".

A total of 11 candidates are running for president. "I know polling is valid, but under that rule, I could not have participated in the primaries [debate]". Both have denied wrongdoing, but on Monday they got away without anyone going into detail about the allegations during the debate.

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