>> A night of stinging attacks for those hoping to be the next French President. A four hour marathon on Tuesday night amongst the 11 candidates. Covering unemployment, immigration, trade, security and relations with Europe. It was the second of three televised debates ahead of the first round votes on April the 23rd.
One that offered the fringe candidates a rare moment in the limelight, one which they ceased to launch scathing attacks on the big players. Far-left election rivals Phillipe Poutou and Natalie Arthaud cornering right wing Francois Fillon and the National Front's Marine Le Pen over police investigations they're facing. Whilst first round frontrunners Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron had it out.
The pair repeatedly clashing over Europe and economic protectionism. Criticizing Anti-EU Le Pen, Macron said nationalism is war. I know it, I come from a region that's full of graveyards, referring to the Somme where he grew up. Le Pen hit back, saying he shouldn't pretend to be something new when you're speaking like old fossils that are at least 50 years old.
Macron kept his position as favorite according to a snap survey after the debates ended, seen as having the best political program. The Elabe poll showed firebrand leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, a veteran of France's political circuit taking first place as the most convincing performer. Macron and Francois Fillon seen next best with Le Pen lagging in fourth.