And that’s it; it’s over. Three hours and 20 minutes of debate. Very hard to say who came out on top. Here’s one succinct and view:
Our Paris correspondent Angelique Chrisafis will be filing her report shortly and the pundits will have their say tomorrow.
Le Pen came across as shouty and angry (and seriously flakey on the economy); Fillon mostly quiet but with a few strong moments, particularly on pensions and foreign policy; Macron enthusiastic, idealistic, passionate at times.
Commentator Christophe Barbier reckons Le Pen did herself no favours: not presidential, too pugnacious:
But all will have pleased their own voters, I imagine. The next few rounds of polls will show whether this evening’s debate made any difference.
That’s it from me: good night!
Fillon: a real change of politics is needed and I’m the only candidate who can deliver it. I’m the only one who could have a stable majority to deliver it. I may have committed a few errors, who hasn’t. But I have experience, and the will to do this.
Hamon: I’m offering you a vote that will be useful to you, your children, your grandchildren. You are used to voting against; I suggest you vote for: for the environment, for purchasing power for the poorest families; for a sixth republic; for a desirable future.
Le Pen: Most of the promises you’ve heard tonight cannot be put into practice because the EU will prevent them. You, the French, have the right to decide. Uncontrolled globalisation has been a disaster for you. I will do nothing against your will. I will start negotiations with Europe, and I will organise a referendum. I call on you to vote for liberty. If you make the right political choices things will improve immediately.
Mélenchon: We cannot affront the threats the world faces with hands tied by money. I want to give the republic back to France by relieving it of this presidential monarchy. I am ready for this responsibility … to put in place a programme that will upset lots of vested interests.
Macron: Thank you for this debate. I want to reconcile opinions. Our country is divided, by fear, and by the way some people play on fear. You are not the problem – the problem is that the established order is not the right one. I propose pragmatism, with zero tolerance. My project is one that will make France proud. Profound change, that’s our project. It’s a profound renewal of French politics. I want France, our country, to offer a chance – a chance for each and every one of you.
The debate has now been going on for more than three hours.
Le Pen says to avoid future terrorism attacks must be prevented by regaining control of France’s frontiers, expelling known militants, banning fundamentalist organisations, closing fundamentalist mosques …
“We must give ourselves the means to wage this necessary war against Islamic fundamentalism,” she says.
Fillon says the world faces a longterm war that will take a decade at least. It will need alliances with Russia, the Middle East and others, and in the meantime France must secure itself: deporting anyone who has a “proven relationship with the enemy”, stripping French nationality from anyone who takes up arms against his country.
Macron says no one can guarantee no new attacks. “It needs responsibility, maturity.” A diplomatic solution in the Middle East; punishment for those who have fought against France; improving intelligence cooperation.
Macron says he is the only candidate who has pledged to fulfil France’s responsibilities to Europe. He says the French people will give him a mandate to defend France’s economic independence and its security.
He says France’s place is at the heart of Europe, working with Europe. Le Pen snorts. “You have said nothing,” Le Pen says. “You have talked for seven minutes and said nothing.”
France’s place in the world
The final stage of the debate: foreign policy.
Hamon says France should always be capable and willing to intervene militarily abroad in defence of international law. He says Trump and Russia’s ambitions have changed everything: less America (on the world stage) should lead to more Europe, he says.
Le Pen says no one should decide for France. “I don’t want to force our soldiers to fight in wars that we have not decided,” she says. The French army is in a parlous state, she says, and defence spending must be raised to 3% of GDP by the end of the next presidency.
Fillon says that’s ridiculous: completely unaffordable.
Mélenchon says the world has become a dangerous place. He wants to be a president of peace, he says. No war, but negotiations …
Le Pen has spoken longer and louder than everyone else …
Another lengthy and detailed discussion.
Mélenchon says everyone should be reimbursed in full for all their healthcare expenses: “We know how to fund that, it’s not complicated.”
Fillon says the system has to be “debureaucratised” and GPs need to be at the heart of the system. They need to be paid properly, to be able to work in teams. Hospitals need to be more independent.
Macron also wants healthcare professionals to have more autonomy.
Le Pen says France has to cut waste in its healthcare system. As a mother of three, she says, she could have started a pharmacy …
There is a lengthy debate on the age of retirement …
Fillon proposes raising the retirement age to 65.
Macron says he will reform the pension system from top to bottom. It is unclear and confusing and unfair, he says. One euro paid into the system should be worth one euro at retirement age, he says.
Tweet of the night so far: “As president of the Republic, I would shorten presidential debates.”
Le Pen says Brexit is a huge success and the UK’s results are “formidable”. Everyone knows what I think of Europe and the euro, she says.
The other candidates laugh …