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Le Pen, Macron to face off in crunch TV election duel

PARIS (AFP) – French leader Emmanuel Macron and the far-right’s Marine Le Pen go head-to-head in a crunch TV debate, seeking to sway undecided voters with four days left until the presidential election’s decisive second round.

Macron holds a solid poll lead, but his political allies have warned against any complacency in the prime-time duel – their only direct clash – which will be watched by millions.

Some polls are predicting a lead of around 10 points for Macron over Le Pen in the run-off, a repeat of the 2017 election. But undecided voters and abstentions could yet swing the figures.

Le Pen has cleared her diary to concentrate on preparing for the debate, hoping to avoid any repeat of the fiasco five years ago, when her ill-prepared performance contributed to her defeat at the hands of the centrist Macron.

This year’s vote will mark the closest the far right has come to taking the Elysee presidential palace. Marine Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie was crushed by Jacques Chirac in the 2002 run-off election, and she was easily defeated by Macron in 2017.

The live televised debate – scheduled from 1900 GMT – has been a political tradition in France since 1974, when Socialist Francois Mitterrand took on centrist Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

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