Macron warns Le Pen risks ‘civil war’ with headscarf ban

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French President Emmanuel Macron warned Wednesday that Le Pen risked sparking a “civil war” if she was elected and implemented her plans to ban the Muslim headscarf in public…reports Asian Lite News

Just four days ahead of the run-off polls, incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen went head to head in their only televised debate during which they clashed on a number of issues, ranging from cost of living, the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, immigration and climate change.

The two hour and 45 minutes debate on Wednesday night was the first time that the same candidates squared off in two consecutive elections, the first being in 2017, reports the BBC.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Wednesday that Le Pen risked sparking a “civil war” if she was elected and implemented her plans to ban the Muslim headscarf in public.

Speaking on banning the wearing of a headscarf in public, one of Le Pen’s key policies, she argued that “women had to be liberated from Islamist pressure”.

“I think that the headscarf is a uniform imposed by the Islamists… I think that the great majority of the women who wear one can’t do otherwise in reality, even if they don’t dare say so.”

Macron however, accused her of creating a “system of equivalence” among Islamism, terrorism and foreigners that would “create civil war”, reports CNN.

Macron

“You are going to cause a civil war if you do that. I say this sincerely.

“France, the home of the Enlightenment and universalism, will become the first country in the world to ban religious symbols in public spaces. That’s what you’re proposing, it doesn’t make sense,” he continued.

“You’re proposing how many policemen to go running after a headscarf or a kippa or a religious symbol?“

Le Pen termed the issue of cost of living as her biggest priority, saying she “will permanently cut VAT on energy” and “will also cut taxes, no income tax for under-30s”.

“My absolute priority of the next five years is to give French people back their money,” she was quoted as saying.

Le Pen also accused Macron on letting pension levels fall in real terms.

The President however, challenged his opponent’s proposals as “unworkable” and said that his solution was to impose a cap on prices which was “twice as effective as dropping sales tax”.

On the Ukraine-Russia war, Macron said Moscow was “going down a fatal path”, while Le Pen warned that giving Ukraine weapons could make France a “co-belligerent”.

But the two contenders agreed on backing Ukraine and taking in refugees, said the BBC report.

Shifting to the topic of immigration, Le Pen said that if she wins, she will call on a referendum on who should stay and who should leave France.

She also condemned the “anarchic and massive immigration” that has contributed to a sense of insecurity in the country.

She also accused Macron of being out of touch with voters, claiming he was ignorant of the suffering of health care workers before Covid-19, as he promised more investment in health care.

But the incumbent President said he had steered France through challenges, including the pandemic, and aimed to make the country a stronger country.

On climate change, Le Pen labelled Macron a “climate hypocrite”, while the President called his opponent “a climate sceptic”.

Although they sparred on the topic of renewable energy, the two contenders agreed on building more nuclear power stations.

Meanwhile, the gap in the opinion polls has widened slightly since the first round vote on April 10 in which Macron won 27.85 per cent and Le Pen came second with 23.15 per cent.

The latest Harris/Challenges poll conducted between April 15-18 have placed Macron 54.0 per cent and Le Pen at 46.0 per cent, the BBC reported.

The candidates are not allowed to campaign the day before the vote, or on election day itself, and the media will be subject to strict reporting restrictions from the day before the election until polls close at 8 p.m. on Sunday in France.

Clash on Russia

Incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron has accused his opponent in the presidential election Marine Le Pen of being dependent on the Russian authorities on Thursday.

During the debates with his opponent, Macron said: “You were the first European politician, who recognized the annexation of Crimea in 2014 … That is bad news for our country. You depend on the Russian authorities, you depend on Mr Putin,” he said, according to Sputnik News Agency.

As per the president, Europe and France should become a balancing force.

Macron also accused Le Pen of taking a loan from a Russian bank in 2017.

“I did that because no French bank wanted to give me a loan,” Le Pen responded, as per Sputnik.

According to Macron, the French role in the Ukrainian crisis is to prevent further escalation.

“We should stick to our policy that envisages the prevention of this war’s spread. The French role is also to provide support for Ukraine,” Macron further said.

On April 10, France held the first round of the presidential election. Macron gained 27.84 per cent of votes, Le Pen 23.15 per cent. The two politicians will face each other on April 24.

Earlier, there were reports that Macron could win the second round of the presidential election with 53.5 per cent of the vote, according to an Elabe poll for French media, released on Thursday, as per Sputnik.

Macron’s rival, the leader of the right-wing National Rally party, Marine Le Pen is expected to receive 46.5 per cent. (ANI)

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