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The Macron v Le Pen debate: What happens?

The live head-to-head debate between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, as they battle it out for the presidency, takes place on Wednesday evening. Here's what you need to know about the debate and why is it important.

The Macron v Le Pen debate: What happens?
Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen at their 2017 debate. Photo by Eric Feferberg / POOL / AFP


The debate takes place on Wednesday, April 20th at 9pm.


The debate is screened live on TV, radio and online – TF1, France 2, BFMTV, Franceinfo, LCI and CNEWS will all carry it. 

It’s not a short debate – the one in 2017 lasted two-and-a-half fours – and immediately afterwards opinion polls are published on which candidate ‘won’ the encounter. 


The debate is a head-to-head between Macron and Le Pen, moderated by two journalists. The moderators will be Léa Salamé and Gilles Bouleau, familiar faces from French political TV shows.

READ ALSO 5 things to watch out for in the Macron v Le Pen debate

The candidates are each given equal time to answer questions on a range of subjects concerning their policies and the challenges facing France. 

It’s a debate so they have the opportunity to challenge each other and flag up anything their opponent says that they believe to be wrong.


The debate is an important feature in French elections and has featured in every second-round debate bar one since 1974.

Various TV and radio stations hold extended interviews and debates between some or all of the candidates before the first round, but the big debate is held once the candidates are whittled down to two ahead of voting in the second round.

It gives viewers the chance to see and compare their answers and also to assess how they perform under pressure.

Is it compulsory?

It’s not actually mandatory to take part, but candidates generally do.

The exception to this was Jacques Chirac in 2002 – he was faced with far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen (Marine’s father) in the second round and refused to take part in a debate with him, saying it would legitimise Le Pen’s extremist views.

In 2017 Macron was faced with Marine Le Pen in the second round and chose to debate her, as he will again in 2022.

Is it important?

It is. In the first round of this election Macron took 27 percent of the vote and Le Pen 23, which means that 50 percent of the electorate didn’t vote for either of them.

The two candidates now need to convince these ‘floating’ voters to back them in order to win the election.

Many factors play into this decision, and both candidates will be campaigning hard for the next two weeks, but history suggests that the debate is important in convincing voters.

Macron was widely considered to have ‘won’ their 2017 encounter after Le Pen put in a disastrous performance, and almost immediately after the debate his poll ratings began to rise. He went on to win the second round 66 percent to 33.

This time he is likely to face a tougher challenge – a better prepared Le Pen who will be able to attack his record in government.  

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.