French election: factory worker Poutou emerges as star of TV debate | World news

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A little-known candidate emerged as the star of the televised French presidential debate after challenging two of the frontrunners over their honesty and implication in fraud scandals.

The militant Philippe Poutou, of the New Anti-capitalist party, weighed into the far-right favourite, Marine Le Pen, and conservative François Fillon, who are both under investigation for misuse of public funds.

While the 10 other candidates stuck to their political programmes during the four-hour live televised debate – which was watched by 6 million viewers – Poutou was determined to address the elephant in the room.

Having refused to pose with the others for the official photograph, saying “they’re not my colleagues”, Poutou (whose name means “little kiss” in French) told Le Pen that ordinary workers did not have the option of ignoring a legal summons.

Le Pen was ordered to appear before a judge over allegations she used European parliament funds to pay for staff at the Front National (FN) party she leads, including her personal bodyguard, but she refused to turn up. She has argued she did not use the money for personal enrichment and claimed she was being victimised.

Poutou then turned on Fillon, who has been formally put under investigation on charges he paid his British-born wife hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ money for jobs that did not exist. Fillon has admitted “making mistakes” but denied any legal wrongdoing.

“Since January, it’s been a feast. Fillon? Nothing but affairs; the more one digs the more one smells corruption and cheating … it’s the same with Marine Le Pen, they’re pinching from public funds, and the FN, which is supposed to be anti-system, isn’t bothered because it’s…

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