Emmanuel Macron’s French presidency bid gathers pace, minister backs campaign

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen pledged on Wednesday to break with her country’s decades-old relationship with Africa known as “Francafrique” and abolish the CFA franc currency policy that binds Paris and its former colonies.

The top candidates in France’s presidential election have clashed in a televised debate, with centrist Emmanuel Macron accusing far-right leader Marine Le Pen of lying and seeking to divide the French.

The sparring between Le Pen and Macron led to the tensest moments in a debate that all-but avoided the issue of Le Pen’s fake jobs case in the European Parliament, as well as the inquiry against Fillon for alleged parliamentary fake jobs for his wife and children.

Mr Fillon, said commentators, was unusually low-key and appeared tired.

“This is called “project fear”.

For her part Le Pen was combative and belligerent throughout especially when attacked on her hardline on Islam and her plan to pull France out of the euro.

“Stop immigration, and I will not make any excuses for that”, she said, stressing that France’s security situation is “explosive” and measures need to be taken “to discourage immigration”.

Former economy minister Macron was most animated when he took on Le Pen over the burkini. You can see she’s a veteran politician.

Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist leading polls with Le Pen, reacted heatedly when she accused him of being in favor of Muslim swimwear.

Several southern French resorts banned the swimsuit last summer before France’s highest administrative court found the ban breached fundamental freedoms.

“The burkini is a public order problem”.

In the first French Presidential debate, Macron was generally seen as the most convincing performer.

Le Pen also came under fire from Socialist candidate Hamon over her remarks on safety in public schools, which she portrayed as being wracked by violence.

Still with another debate to come involving all 11 candidates there is still plenty to play for and in this election race, anything could happen yet.

But with nearly 40 percent of voters undecided the stakes are high.

After four days of trading focused chiefly on expectations for United States interest rates and the Trump administration’s attitude to trade and a stronger dollar, the euro’s gains also sent the dollar index to a six-week low.

Communist-backed candidate Melenchon appealed to voters to “reward the virtuous”.

Le Pen would get 27% in the first round vote, according to the latest Opinionway poll. The surveys also show voters being unusually fickle.

Macron – who is running under the progressive En Marche! banner – has continued to gain support in recent weeks.

But officials from her Front National party told Politico that they “do not acknowledge a position change”.

Opponents of the European Union have been salivating over the prospect of the far right’s Marine Le Pen winning the presidency, given her promise to hold a referendum on France’s European Union membership that could swiftly undo the whole project.

Francois Fillon Emanuel Macron Jean Luc Melenchon Marine Le Pen and Benoit Hamon before the debate