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Polls: Macron most convincing in French election TV debate

Polls: Macron most convincing in French election TV debateFrance’s first presidential TV debate saw centrist Emmanuel Macron as the most convincing performer in a number of opinion polls following Monday night’s nearly three-and-a-half-hour long marathon, Euronews reported on Tuesday.

Macron clashed several times with his fellow frontrunner, far-right National Front candidate Marine le Pen, notably on immigration.

“I want a stop to immigration. Clearly. And I completely stand by what I am saying. I want to put an end to legal and illegal immigration,” Le Pen said.

She talked about a rise of radical Islam in France. But Macron, who has formed his own movement "En Marche", was indignant.

“The trap you are falling into, Mrs Le Pen, through your provocations, is dividing society,” he said.

Just hours after the debate, a junior French minister serving under Socialist President Francois Hollande backed Macron’s campaign, becoming the first government member to do so.

Biodiversity minister Barbara Pompili, from the ecology party, is expected to be the first of a number of ministers in Hollande’s government to endorse the independent centrist instead of lining up behind Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon.

Bernard Poignant, a close adviser to Hollande, also told Reuters he was backing Macron.

Still struggling to make his mark in the campaign, Hamon also spoke out on immigration on Monday night’s TV clash.

“The proportion of foreigners in France has been stable since the 1930s. But even so, every year it is the object of a debate, a debate aimed mainly at exploiting the issue of immigration for electoral gain,” Hamon said.

The financial scandal surrounding conservative Francois Fillon occupied relatively little time in a debate in which the most flamboyant performer was left-wing firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Polls show that both Macron and Le Pen have about a quarter of the electorate behind them in the first round vote on April 23, with Republican candidate Francois Fillon trailing in third place with about 19 percent support. Macron is projected to win the May runoff by about 20 percentage points.

Facing the biggest television audience of his career, Macron was seen as the most convincing candidate by 29 percent of viewers, according to an Elabe poll of 1,157 people who watched. Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon placed second with a score of 20 percent while Fillon and Le Pen were at 19 percent. Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon trailed with 11 percent support.

The Harris Interactive poll also suggested that Macron had been the most convincing candidate in last night's first French TV presidential debate. The poll said Macron had managed to convince 38 percent of those who had watched the debate.

That score was above those of his rivals. Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen had convinced 33 percent, an identical score to that of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Francois Fillon, the conservative candidate of The Republicans party who has been embroiled in an expenses scandal, convinced 27 percent.

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.
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