French presidential rivals clash in crucial TV debate

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PARIS (Reuters) - Far-right leader Marine Le Pen criticized Emmanuel Macron, her centrist rival for the French presidency, as a “smirking banker” representing globalization gone wild when the two met in a crucial pre-election TV debate on Wednesday.

“Mr Macron is the candidate of globalization, Uberisation,” Le Pen said, firing an opening salvo. “And all of this has been directed by Mr (outgoing Socialist President Francois) Hollande.”

After being attacked by Le Pen for not preventing big French companies from being sold to foreign firms, Macron said she had not properly prepared for the debate and did not seem to understand economic issues.

“You’re talking nonsense,” Macron, a one-time economy minister under Hollande and a former investment banker, replied. “You are not answering the questions.”

Voters go to the polls on Sunday to choose between Macron and Le Pen in what is widely seen as France’s most important election in decades with implications for its role in Europe and the world.

Reporting by Michel Rose and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Richard Balmforth