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Final TV Debate of French Presidential Candidates Overshadowed By Paris Shooting

© REUTERS / Martin Bureau/PoolThe eleven French presidential election candidates take part in a special political television show entitled "15min to Convince" at the studios of French Television channel France 2 in Saint-Cloud, near Paris, April 20, 2017.
The eleven French presidential election candidates take part in a special political television show entitled 15min to Convince at the studios of French Television channel France 2 in Saint-Cloud, near Paris, April 20, 2017. - Sputnik International
The last round of French presidential debates that took place late on Thursday ahead of the Sunday round of nationwide election was marred by the deadly shooting in the nation's capital.

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PARIS (Sputnik) — The 11 presidential candidates, including far-left hopeful Jean-Luc Melenchon and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, National Front party's Marine Le Pen and The Republicans' Francois Fillon, each had 15 minutes to answer questions asked by the debates' moderator. The debate had been running for about an hour when reports about the shooting in Paris emerged, shifting the focus of the event to the issues of terrorism and security.

According to French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet, the shooting occurred at around 8:50 p.m. local time (19:50 GMT) on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris. One police officer was killed, while two other law enforcement members and a female pedestrian were injured, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said. The country's President Francois Hollande has said that the attack was "of terrorist nature." Media reported that the Islamic State (IS, outlawed in Russia) terrorist organization had claimed responsibility for the attack.


Speaking about the terrorist threat, Macron said that it would unfortunately "be a part of the everyday life of the French people in the near future." At the same time, the candidate expressed his readiness to tackle terrorism in France and abroad, including in Syria. The politician also welcomed the US anti-IS campaign and promised that he would, if elected, join Washington in airstrikes on Syrian government infrastructure allegedly used to stock chemical weapons.

Jean-Luc Melenchon of the French far left Parti de Gauche and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election delivers a speech during a political rally in Marseille, France, April 9, 2017. - Sputnik International
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When voicing her opinion on the attack, Le Pen said that French authorities had not done enough to protect the country's citizens.

"Our law enforcement agencies do not wait for our compassion. They need means for protection, for struggle with the huge threat posed by the Islamic terrorism. I do not want to get accustomed to this threat. I do not want to tell our young people that they would live in conditions of daily and long term danger. We should implement a plan against the Islamic terrorism," she said while also calling for "courageous and decisive" measures.

She added that France should protect its borders and fight against radical ideology.

Fillon said that counterterrorism would be the issue of high priority for the next country's president and called for a broad international coalition against terrorism.

"A broad international coalition is needed to destroy all totalitarian movements that stand at the origins of violence," the candidate said citing such terrorist groups as the Daesh, Boko Haram and Taliban, outlawed in many countries, including Russia.

He added that it was impossible to defeat terrorism without cooperation with Russia and a dialogue with Iran.


Following the shooting, Fillon said he had canceled several campaign events to express solidarity with policemen, as well as with other French citizens. His move was mirrored by Le Pen, who has also canceled her own events.

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However, Melenchon, as well as Benoit Hamon, the candidate from the ruling Socialist Party, have refused to suspend their events, saying as that the democratic process should not be halted and stressing that no one should surrender in the face of fear and violence.

Macron's campaign office has not yet made a decision on the continuation of his events.

What regards the debates' audience, nearly 5 million people in France tuned in to the final televised debate between the 11 presidential candidates set to face off in the coming election on Sunday, local media reported Friday.

The debates, aired by the France 2 channel late on Thursday, gathered some 4.7 million viewers, or just over 21 percent of the total audience, Le Figaro reported.

A fraction of the audience later switched to other channels which covered the Avenue des Champs-Elysees shooting in Paris that led to the death of a police officer. The attack was described as a terrorist act by French authorities, and the perpetrator, who was killed by police, was reportedly a radicalized Belgian affiliated to Daesh.

Last night's debates were held in a trimmed format after the broadcaster decided against holding a full-scale "political show." Each candidate had 15 minutes to answer the hosts' questions.

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