European Elections

I won’t be Merkel’s lapdog! Le Pen launches scathing attack on EU in presidential debate

MARINE Le Pen has vowed she will not be Angela Merkel’s lapdog if she becomes president of France as she launched a scathing attack on the EU in the first presidential election.

The leader of the Front National declared she will protect France’s borders and protect French sovereignty if she wins the election. came out fighting as the top candidates in France’s volatile presidential election go head-to-head in a televised three-hour debate.

Asked what kind of president she hopes to be, Ms Le Pen, who wants to take France out of the EU, said she would not bow to Europhile German Chancellor .

Marine Le Pen

Ms Le Pen said: “I want to be the president of the French Republic, truly. I am not going to become involved in a vague region in Europe. I don’t want to be the vice-chancellor of Madame Merkel.“I don’t want to be the salesperson for multinational or large group. I want to be president of the French Republic which respects article five which states the president guarantees national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“It is not just empty words. Thousands of French people died for our national independence.

“It means the right to decide for themselves and I believe the French people have the right to choose to define their own identity to defend their values and traditions, to rearm when faced with international competition without being lectured or criticised by a supranational structure.”

Ms Le Pen, who is is leading polls to win the first run off next month, also took aim at the Schengen zone and vowed to protect France, which has been gripped by a string of deadly terror attacks in the last 18 months.She said: “The French must be able to defend their own interests, not the interests of the banks, the interests of the financiers, or of some European capital that has made decisions in their stead.

Marine Le Pen said she would not bow down to Angela MerkelFRANCE24/ REUTERS      Marine Le Pen said she would not bow down to Angela Merkel

“It is absolutely urgent to defend our society, to defend our borders against Islamic radicals who represent a major danger.“We must rearm because of globalisation- to fight globalisation we have to fight the secular spirit that is developing.”

Ms Le Pen added: “The reason people no longer politicians is because they have handed over their responsibilities to the European institutions.”

The televised debate, the first held before the first round of a French presidential election, may be crucial in helping viewers make up their minds.

Opinion polls show almost 40 per cent of voters are not completely sure who to back in the election, being held over two rounds on April 23 and May 7 against a backdrop of high unemployment and sluggish growth.

The leader of the Front National declared she will protect France’s bordersFRANCE24    The leader of the Front National declared she will protect France’s borders

Five of France's presidential candidates clashed in a televised debateAFP GETTY    Five of France’s presidential candidates clashed in a televised debate

Polls show centrist Emmanuel Macron and Ms Le Pen establishing a clear lead in terms of voting intentions in the first round, while conservative candidate Francois Fillon, the one-time front-runner who has been damaged by a financial scandal, has slipped back.The latest daily Opinionway poll showed Ms Le Pen scoring 27 per cent in the first round, in front of Mr Macron on 23 and Mr Fillon on 18. It found Mr Macron comfortably winning a run-off.

The other two candidates taking part in this evening’s debate are the ruling Socialist Party’s candidate Benoit Hamon and Jean-Luc Melenchon, who have split the left-wing vote.

MsLe Pen later clashed with Mr Macron over the burkini and secularism in France.

The Front National leader also called for a .Mr Macron, a 39-year-old former economy minister and investment banker who has never run for elected office, said he was proud of his previous work.

He said: “As far as I’m concerned I’m not a member of the political establishment. I’m here because I’ve been working hard. I was a civil servant, a banker. I’m proud of having been a banker I became a government minister and I fought for what I believe in.

“I have seen what is blocking our country is ancient rules that are obsolete.

“Traditional parties who for decades have not been able to solve the problems of yesterday will not be able to solve the problems of tomorrow.”

Mr Fillon vowed to make France a significant power on the world stage.He said: “I want to be the president of national recovery, that will free French democracy and free French from excessive taxes and regulations.

“I will place France on a path that will lead us to being top European power in less than 10 years.

“I will protect French from all forms of disorder. The state must assume its responsibility.”

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