French presidential candidates Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron are set to go head-to-head Wednesday night in a two-hour-long live TV debate, the only scheduled debate in this second round of the election.
The debate between the far-right Le Pen and her centrist rival Macron is shaping up to be the climax of a heated campaign as the two candidates attempt to shore up support from France’s estimated 18 percent of undecided voters.
Macron is handily beating Le Pen in opinion polling, though his lead has shrunk considerably since the first round of voting on April 23.
An opinion polling average shows Macron with a 60 percent to 40 percent lead over Le Pen, though that lead has shrunk by about three percentage points over the past 10 days.
The debate Wednesday night, which will be broadcast to about 20 million viewers on France’s two largest television stations, is being billed as a showdown between the two candidates, who have yet to debate each other face-to-face.
All the major themes of the campaign are expected to be covered, including France’s high unemployment rate, immigration, and security, which likely will be a high-profile subject given France’s current state of emergency over repeated terror attacks.
Macron seemingly has the most to lose in the debate, as Le Pen likely will try to use the opportunity to strengthen her position in opinion polls heading into Sunday’s second round of voting.
Both candidates have lightened up on campaigning in recent days in order to prepare for the debate.