German Minister Says 'Policy We Advocate Helps Le Pen Become President'

The debate, the first between the five main contenders ahead of a two-round election on April 23 and May 7, could help viewers make up their minds in an election where almost 40 percent of voters say they are not sure who to back.

"You are lying by twisting the truth", he said, accusing her of "dividing" society. An accusation the former investment banker did not accept, saying he was the only candidate not funded by public money. "We don't understand any of it".

The poll showed Macron beating Le Pen by 64 percent to her 36 percent in the second conclusive round.

"We have to have national borders", she said.

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In the fiery encounter between the top five contenders, Ms Le Pen said: "I want to stop immigration, it is clear".

The rightwing Fran├žois Fillon has in recent weeks gone from favourite to fighting to stay in the race after a formal judicial investigation was launched into claims that he paid his wife and children vast taxpayer-funded salaries for alleged "fake jobs" as parliamentary assistants.

Much like Donald Trump, the National Front party in France has made itself the champion of workers and businessmen frightened by the effects of globalization.

"We will see how this one goes, it will be enlightening".

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Hamon had a dig at the other candidates for suggesting his idea for universal income was the only original and really beneficial reform offered by any of them and Jean-Luc Melenchon lived up to his name as a firebrand by taking the fight to all four of his rivals and emerging as many people's victor. "But I have experience", Mr Fillon told viewers. "I am not going to become involved in a vague region in Europe", she stressed, pointing out that France's independence is a core value for many French people, who want to "defend their values and traditions" and remain competitive "without being lectured" to by a "supranational structure". Among her foreign policy objectives Le Pen has called for closer cooperation in Syria with President Bashar al-Assad and a rapprochement with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. But there it ended, with Le Pen's fitting retort: "You have said nothing".

But Mr Macron said it is important that there is a "realistic" politics when it comes to migration as well as reducing the time it takes for people seeking asylum.

While Le Pen spoke broadly of a need for "economic patriotism" and higher taxes on companies that outsource jobs, other candidates didn't challenge her proposed duties on foreign goods, which contravene European Union law.

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