Saturday , October 21 2017

Macron files complaint after Le Pen ‘offshore account’ claim

Obama endorses Macron for presidency

A video grab from an AFP video taken on May 3, during a live brodcast televised debate in television studios of French public national television channel France 2, and French private channel TF1 moderated by French journalist Christophe Jakubyszyn (second left), and French journalist Nathalie Saint-Cricq (second right), in La Plaine-Saint-Denis, north of Paris, shows French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen (left), and French presidential election candidate for the En Marche! movement Emmanuel Macron (right) talking during a face to face debate ahead of the second round of the French presidential election. (AFP)

PARIS, May 4, (Agencies): Former U.S. president Barack Obama endorsed centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron for France’s presidential election on Sunday in a video message in which he praised Macron for appealing “to people’s hopes and not their fears”. “The French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about,” Obama said in the message, distributed by Macron’s camp. Macron “has stood up for liberal values … He is committed to a better future for the French people. He appeals to people’s hopes and not their fears,” the former president said. “I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward,” Obama said, concluding his statement with the French title of Macron’s party “En Marche!” (Onwards!) and “Vive la France!”. Macron is widely seen as the favourite to beat the National Front’s Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s runoff vote.

Meanwhile, French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron filed a complaint Thursday after his far-right rival Marine Le Pen implied he had an “offshore account in the Bahamas”, an aide said. “We will not hesitate to prosecute for defamation anyone who repeats this false information,” a member of Macron’s camp said. During Wednesday’s ferocious televised debate Le Pen said: “I hope that we will not find out that you have an offshore account in the Bahamas.” Macron refuted the suggestion as “defamation”. Judicial sources said prosecutors in Paris had opened a probe following the complaint from Macron, which comes three days before Sunday’s presidential run-off against Le Pen.

According to a source close to the case, the complaint targets “information that circulated Wednesday night on the internet” alleging tax evasion in the Bahamas. Speaking on French radio Thursday, the centrist, pro-EU candidate characterised the insinuations as “fake news and lies” from “sites, some of which were linked to Russian interests”. In related news, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron clashed over their vision of France’s future, the euro and ways of fighting terrorism in an ill-tempered televised debate on Wednesday before Sunday’s run-off vote for the presidency.

The two went into the debate with opinion polls showing Macron, 39, with a strong lead of 20 percentage points over the National Front’s Le Pen, 48, in what is widely seen as France’s most important election in decades. For Le Pen, the two-and-a-half hour debate, watched by millions, was a last major chance to persuade voters of the merits of her programme which includes cracking down on illegal immigration, ditching the euro single currency and holding a referendum on EU membership.

Convincing
However, 63 percent of viewers found Macron more convincing than Le Pen in the debate, according to a snap opinion poll by Elabe for BFMTV, reinforcing his status as favourite to win the Elysee on Sunday. In angry exchanges, Le Pen played up Macron’s background as a former investment banker and economy minister, painting him as heir to the outgoing unpopular Socialist government and as the “candidate of globalisation gone wild.” He savaged her flagship policy of abandoning the euro, calling it a fatal plan that would unleash a currency war, and he accused her of failing to offer solutions to France’s economic problems such as chronic unemployment.

The barbs at times were personal. Macron called Le Pen a “parasite” and a liar, and Le Pen labelled him a “smirking banker” and – in a reference to his youthful looks – said: “You are young on the outside, but old on the inside”. In a final put-down, when Le Pen attempted to interrupt his summing-up, Macron told Le Pen: “You stay on TV. I want to be president of the country.” The sharpest exchange was over national security, a sensitive issue in a country where more than 230 people have been killed by Islamist militants since 2015.

Le Pen accused Macron of being complacent in confronting Islamist fundamentalism. “You have no plan (on security) but you are indulgent with Islamist fundamentalism,” she said. Macron retorted that terrorism would be his priority if he is elected and accused Le Pen of offering false solutions. “I will lead a fight against Islamist terrorism at every level. But what they are wanting, the trap they are holding out for us, is the one that you offer – civil war,” he said. Macron attacked Le Pen’s flagship policy of scrapping the euro to return to the franc, pressing Le Pen on how this would work in practice and accusing her of “fiddling” and “a crass lack of preparation” on the issue. Leaving the euro would be a “a fatal plan and a dangerous plan”, Macron said. “What you propose is currency war.”

Le Pen accused Macron of launching “project fear” over her plans. “The euro is the currency of bankers, not that of the people,” she said. Le Pen has appeared to fl ip-fl op on her euro policy in recent days. Around three-quarters of French people oppose abandoning the euro and analysts say the policy could cost her support among people fearful that their savings could lose value. Wednesday night’s event marked the first time a National Front candidate has appeared in a run-off debate – an indication of the degree of acceptance Le Pen has secured for the once-pariah party by softening its image in an attempt to dissociate it from past xenophobic associations.

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