Emmanuel Macron (L) handovers the economy ministry to French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, in Paris, France, Aug. 31, 2016. French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday handed his resignation to President Francois Hollande "to devote himself to political movement," the presidency office announced on Tuesday. (Xinhua/Thierry Mahe)
PARIS, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Ahead of a television debate scheduled on Tuesday, presidential frontrunners far-right party leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron lashed out at each other in separate press interviews in an attempt to woo voters in a tough election.
Le Pen portrayed her arch rival Macron as "the candidate of the vacuum, of nothing".
"When he speaks, he falls into hatred, violence, aggression. I think Macron might not be in the second round of elections," she said Tuesday.
Le Pen believed that her qualifying in the presidential run-off was "essential to be able to bring to the French the fundamental choice between patriotism and globalism".
"I have to be present in the second round. Otherwise, the French will have the choice only between two globalists," she added, referring to Macron and conservative challenger Francois Fillon.
Campaigning with a protectionist platform, Le Pen pledged a move away from free trade zones and the euro to restore French national sovereignty via a return to local currency and internal borders.
According to a new survey released on Tuesday, first-round voting intentions for the frontrunners showed them neck-and-neck with 25 percent.
Polls showed Macron would beat Le Pen by 61 percent to 39 percent in the run-off on May 7.
Last Saturday, Macron warned a rally in the southern city of Marseille: "Those who say Le Pen can't win the second round are the same as those who said Trump could never win. We don't know what can happen if she is far ahead in the first round."
He aims to appease voters of different political views, promising a mix of spending cuts and investment boost to kickstart the economy.
"I am the only candidate who unites. If the French want this change, they will vote for me," he told Le Monde newspaper on Monday.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Sciences Po University professor Thomas Guenole saw Macron as "a possible winner by default", although the candidate has never held an elected post and "lacks charisma and is proposing a rather hazy right-left compromise".
"Macron is today a possible winner by default as right-wing candidate is handicapped by corruption and nepotism and the left is divided between two candidates," he said.
Asked whether Le Pen could make a shock win following a surge of populism in France, Guenole said the far-right leader is likely to lose the race.
"Le Pen has no chance of winning the presidential election. For a simple reason that the share of voters who are ready to vote for anyone in the second round, as long as it is to beat Le Pen, is more than one out of two voters," he said.
Eleven candidates are officially competing to book a ticket to occupy the Elysee Palace in 2017 over the next five years.
If no contender wins a majority of votes in the first round on April 23, the top-score nominees will meet two weeks later for a run-off.