Macron clashes with Le Pen in Paris debate

Emmanuel Macron (pic) has clashed with his main rival, Marine Le Pen, in a televised debate. (AAP)

Emmanuel Macron has clashed with his main rival, Marine Le Pen, in a televised debate, with the centrist still favourite to win France's presidential election.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron has kept his position as favourite to win France's presidential election after a televised debate in which he clashed sharply with his main rival, Marine Le Pen, over Europe, just 19 days before the election.

Macron was seen as having the best political program, according to a snap survey that also placed him as the second most convincing performer in a four-hour marathon on Tuesday night that involved all 11 candidates.

Criticising Le Pen, the leader of the National Front who wants to leave the euro, hold a referendum on European Union membership and curb immigration, Macron said: "Nationalism is war. I know it. I come from a region that is full of graveyards."

The centrist, who voiced his strong pro-European views, comes from the Somme region, a major battlefield in World War I.

Le Pen hit back at Macron: "You shouldn't pretend to be something new when you are speaking like old fossils that are at least 50 years old."

Macron retorted: "Sorry to tell you this, Madame Le Pen, but you are saying the same lies that we've heard from your father for 40 years."

In the Elabe snap poll taken when the debate ended in the early hours of Wednesday, firebrand leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, a veteran of France's political circuit, took first place as the most convincing performer.

Le Pen lagged in fourth place behind Macron and Francois Fillon.

Macron was seen in the same poll as having the best program of all the candidates by 23 per cent of viewers, followed by Melenchon, whose ratings have been rising since the first televised debate in March, to the detriment of Socialist Party candidate Benoit Hamon.

While the Elabe poll did not show voting intentions, other surveys have consistently shown Macron and Le Pen qualifying for the May 7 runoff and Macron winning it.

Source AAP

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