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Live: Top French presidential candidates face off in first TV debate

Patrick Kovarik, AFP | (From left to right) French presidential candidates François Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Marine Le Pen and Benoît Hamon on March 20, 2017

France’s leading candidates are facing off on a primetime TV debate Monday in the country's first presidential event before the April 23 first round vote. To watch the debate live in English on FRANCE 24 at 9pm Paris time, click on the player below.

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The candidates will all be asked to present their visions for France’s society, economy and place in the world. The battle is expected to last at least two-and-a-half hours.

Macron and Le Pen, the frontrunners according to the opinion polls, and Fillon, the embattled conservative candidate under formal investigation for allegedly embezzling state funds, are poised to be the evening’s prime targets.

Tonight’s debate, which marks this election’s first direct public interaction between any of its candidates, is also being broadcast on French channels TF1 and LCI.

The election’s six other contenders, condemned to sit out this clash, will have a chance to join the fray on TV at a later stage in the campaign. Two more debates are scheduled, on April 4 and 20. The presidential finalists will then square off in the traditional televised duel before the deciding vote is held on May 7.

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