Five things we learned from Macron and Le Pen’s Sunday interviews

French President Emmanuel Macron and his most likely challenger, Marine Le Pen, both gave television interviews on Sunday with just over two weeks to go until the election. We watched it so that you didn't have to.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his main rival, Marine Le Pen, both gave TV interviews on Sunday.
French President Emmanuel Macron and his main rival, Marine Le Pen, both gave TV interviews on Sunday. Here's what you need to know. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron and his chief rival going into April’s election, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, were invited for interviews on France 3 on Sunday. 

Here is what we learned from their appearances: 

Macron has been busy 

Challenged by the journalist for not having taken part in a real presidential debate with other candidates, Emmanuel Macron said he had been busy. 

He pointed towards the “historic” fuel rebate, EU and NATO negotiations, and a succession of phone calls to Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“All of that takes preparation. It takes work. A President needs to be giving it his all,” he said. 

Polls suggest that the first round of the French presidential election could see record levels of abstentionism – which according to some analysts and voters is because people have the impression that there is no real debate. 

“If we want to have a strong democracy, go and vote,” insisted Macron. 

Earlier in the day, on of his ministers told FranceInfo that the real democratic debate would take place in between the two rounds. 

Le Pen wants to tap into the cost of living crisis

“The French deserve more than the sacking of society, alienation from politics and seeing their purchasing power decrease year after year,” said Le Pen during her interview. 

Most serious economic studies actually suggest that purchasing power for the vast majority of the population has actually increased under Macron’s presidency – even if it remains a top priority for voters. 

Le Pen proposed cutting VAT on all energy sources. She said she would finance such a move by cracking down on fraud and immigration – and estimates that the average French person would be €150-200 richer by the end of the month. 

Reforming pensions not a priority for Macron 

Macron batted away claims that reforming pensions, by lifting the retirement age to 65 and raising minimum pension payments to €1,100 per month, was his number one priority. 

He said that his efforts would be poured into reforming the education system through massive investment and consultations with teachers — and reforming the health system. 

Macron’s previous efforts to reform pensions were met with mass protests in France. He is perhaps aware that it is not one of his most popular policies – although he remains committed to the principle. 

He said it would not be possible to have “social justice” without raising the retirement age – because currently the burden that older people pose on younger ones in France is increasing. 

Le Pen is not popular Guadeloupe’s nationalists

Le Pen is currently on the campaign trail in Guadeloupe. 

Her interview was cut short after she was attacked by a pro-independence group on the Caribbean island who grabbed her microphone, leading security to step in. 

“I find it unacceptable that the ideas of the far-right can spread around like they are at Club Med. This land, I remind you, is a land of slavery, a land of victims of the ideological ancestors of Marine Le Pen,” said Ronald Selbonne of the Alyans Nasyonal Gwadloup. 

Le Pen plans to continue the rest of her visit on the island as scheduled.

During the EU elections of 2019, Le Pen’s party finished top there. 

Macron condemned the events. 

“It shocks me. Political violence is intolerable,” he said. 

Le Pen had something nice to say about Macron

Asked for her opinion on US President Joe Biden calling his Russian counterpart a “butcher”, Le Pen said she was disappointed. 

“Obviously he is putting oil on the fire,” she said. 

“We need deescalation. The last speech from Biden where he said he wanted a regime change in Russia will not contribute to appeasement. The aim is to achieve peace.”

Le Pen’s next words came as a bit of surprise. 

“The fact that the French President did not enter into this escalation of words seems positive to me,” she said. 

Was that… was that a compliment? 

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‘A good thing’ for footballers to express values, says France’s PM

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne - speaking in Berlin - said that footballers should be allowed to express their values, amid controversy over FIFA's stance against the 'OneLove' armband on the pitch.

'A good thing' for footballers to express values, says France's PM

“There are rules for what happens on the field but I think it’s a good thing for players to be able to express themselves on the values that we obviously completely share, while respecting the rules of the tournament,” said Borne at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

Germany’s players made headlines before Wednesday’s shock loss to Japan when the team lined up for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths after FIFA’s threat to sanction players wearing the rainbow-themed armband.

Seven European nations, including Germany, had previously planned for their captains to wear the armband, but backed down over FIFA’s warning.

Following Germany’s action, Wales and the Netherlands have since come out to say they would not mirror the protest.

Borne’s visit to Germany was her first since she was named to her post in May.

Following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two leaders signed an agreement for “mutual support” on “guaranteeing their energy supplies”.

Concrete measures outlined in the deal include France sending Germany gas supplies as Berlin seeks to make up for gaping holes in deliveries from Russia.

Germany meanwhile would help France “secure its electricity supplies over winter”, according to the document.

France had since 1981 been a net exporter of electricity to its neighbours because of its nuclear plants. But maintenance issues dogging the plants have left France at risk of power cuts in case of an extremely cold winter.

The two leaders also affirmed their countries’ commitment to backing Ukraine “to the end of” its conflict with invaders Russia.