French presidential debate proves a marathon of egalité in action | World news

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It was long – four hours of live prime-time television. It was historic – never before had 11 French presidential candidates assembled for a political debate. It was occasionally chaotic, ill-tempered, and rambling, but on the whole civilised and restrained.

Most of all, France’s second presidential debate was an example of democracy in action.

The five main candidates: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, along with François Fillon, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Benoît Hamon, were joined by six lesser-known rivals.

Though none of the also-rans have a hope of challenging the frontrunners, the rule of Tuesday evening’s debate was egalité in its most basic form: each candidate, no matter what their standing in the opinion polls, was to be given exactly the same amount of time – 18 minutes – to express their views.

The result was a range of ideas and opinions from communist to nationalist, protectionist and conservative, plus everything in between.

The majority of the smaller candidates proved either virulently anti-Europe or equally fiercely anti-capitalist.

The favourite, Macron, was cautious and seemingly anxious not to put a foot wrong. However, he clashed with Le Pen over her proposal to scrap the euro and return to the franc. “What you are proposing, Madame Le Pen, is a reduction in French people’s purchasing power because for savers and for workers, withdrawing from the euro will be a reduction in spending power.”

Nathalie Arthaud of the Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle) party said it hardly mattered to the badly paid what currency they earned.

Macron also accused Le Pen of seeking to start an “economic war” with France’s neighbours and said the sort of nationalism she espoused had torn

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