Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Macron attacks Le Pen over her links to Russia as vote looms

French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right contender Marine Le Pen (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right contender Marine Le Pen (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron has attacked his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen over her ties to Russia and her suspicion of the European Union in a play for the votes he needs to win another five-year term.

In their only televised debate before voters have their say in Sunday’s run-off, Mr Macron sought to portray Ms Le Pen as fundamentally untrustworthy, accusing her of dishonesty in her election promises.

Ms Le Pen, whom Mr Macron beat in the last presidential election five years ago, is doing better in polls this time although she still trails the incumbent president.

France Presidential Election Debate
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen (Francois Mori/AP)

The French leader was particularly vocal in his criticism of a loan taken out by Ms Le Pen’s party in 2014 from a Russian-Czech bank. He said that debt meant that, if elected president, Ms Le Pen’s hands would be tied when dealing with the Kremlin.

“You are speaking to your banker when you speak of Russia, that’s the problem,” Mr Macron charged in the evening primetime debate that was expected to be watched by millions.

“You made a choice which, obviously, acted as a constraint on your political position and does not make you independent on that issue. That is a fact,” Mr Macron said.

Ms Le Pen bristled at Ms Macron’s suggestion that she is beholden to Russia. She described herself as “totally free.” She said her party is repaying the loan and called him “dishonest” for raising the issue.

Mr Macron, a pro-European centrist, emerged ahead from the April 10 first round and is leading in opinion polls.

France Presidential Election Debate
People watch French President Emmanuel Macron (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

But Ms Le Pen, an anti-immigration nationalist who has gained ground this year by tapping anger over inflation, has significantly narrowed the gap in public support compared to 2017, when she lost with 34% of the vote to Mr Macron’s 66%.

Both candidates had prepared carefully for Wednesday’s debate. But Ms Le Pen made an inauspicious start: Having been picked to speak first, she started off before the debate’s opening jingle had finished playing. Inaudible because of the music, she had to stop and start again. She apologised.

Once the jousting began, Mr Macron quickly put Ms Le Pen on the defensive. He zeroed in on her voting record as a lawmaker and questioned her grasp of economic figures.

In 2017, a similar debate struck a decisive blow to her campaign.

Both candidates need to broaden support before Sunday’s vote. Many French, especially on the left, say they still do not know whether they will even go to the polls.