Marine Le Pen said she would not bow down to Angela Merkel
The leader of the Front National declared she will protect France’s borders and protect French sovereignty if she wins the election.
Marine Le Pen 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 Angela Merkel.
I want to be the president of the French Republic. I’m not going to become involved in a vague region in Europe. I don’t want to be vice-chancellor of Madame Merkel
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.
The leader of the Front National declared she will protect France’s borders
“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.
Who will be the next President of France? Mon, March 20, 2017
Candidates for the 2017 French Presidential Election revealed
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“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.”
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.
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.
More to follow…