Macron vs. Le Pen: The French presidential candidates in their own words

French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron, left, and Marine Le Pen.
(Joel Sagt / AFP/Getty Images)

The two candidates in France’s presidential runoff Sunday have both campaigned on a promise of change, but have starkly different visions for the country.

Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker who took the top spot in the first round of voting last month, is a pro-European centrist with a message of openness and inclusivity toward immigrants and minorities.

His far-right challenger, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, proposes to fortify France against outsiders, ban Islamic veils and other so-called displays of “communitarianism” in public places, and hold a “Brexit”-style referendum on leaving the European Union.

Here is what they have to say on key issues in the election. Some of the links are in French.

Islamism in France


“The trap in which you are falling, Mme. Le Pen, with your provocations, is to divide society, that is to say that the more than 4 million Frenchmen and Frenchwomen whose religion is Islam and who are, for the vast majority, absolutely not into communitarianism, to make them out to be enemies of the republic.

“Well not me! … Don’t divide the French over this. Let’s be pragmatic and responsible.”

Presidential debate, March 20, 2017

Le Pen

“The truth is there has been a rise of Islamist fundamentalism in our country for some years. If we don’t say it, then we are refusing to face reality.… So not only must we promote secularism, but we must fight against communitarianism.…

“You don’t want to see the seriousness of what is happening. The fact remains that a few years ago there were no burkinis on the beaches.”

Presidential debate, March 20, 2017

How to fight terrorism


“The battle to destroy our enemies must be waged outside our borders. In Iraq, in Syria, that’s where are found the inspirers or the sponsors of those who kill here, in Europe and in France....

“On the domestic level, my commitment is clear: 10,000 jobs for policemen and gendarmes will be created over the next five-year term. I want more responsive and effective intelligence. To this end, I will set up directly within the presidency of the republic a coordinating body — I called it a task force — capable of acting 24 hours a day against [Islamic State]…. Strong action will be taken to combat Islamist radicalization, including on the Internet.”

Statement on April 21, 2017

Le Pen

“Since we are at war with Islamist fundamentalism, we will apply to the enemies of France all the legal devices of a state of war….

“Foreigners with S [security] files will be taken back to the border. Binationals with S files will be deprived of their French nationality and, with ambiguity as to their real nationality lifted, will be sent back to their countries.

“The French who are on file will be prosecuted for contact with the enemy…. The places of Islamist preaching will be closed, and those who sow hatred condemned and expelled.”

Speech in Lyons on Feb. 5, 2017



“Immigration is an economic, cultural and social opportunity. In all theories of growth, it is one of the positive determinants….

“When we know how to integrate them, to train them, women and men renew our society, give it fresh impetus, impulses of inventiveness and innovation.”

Interview with Reforme weekly, March 2, 2017

Le Pen

“For many French people, massive immigration is an oppression….

“Immigration is only seen as an opportunity by these big bosses who profit from imported labor to reduce salaries and leave the French people to bear the social costs.”

Speech in Paris on April 17, 2017

What it means to be a patriot


“I want to be your president, the president of all the people of France, the president of patriots, to face the threat of nationalists….

“The challenge is to resolve to make a complete break with the system that has been incapable of responding to the problems of our country for more than 30 years. The challenge is to open a new page in our political life and to act so that everyone is able to find their place in France and in Europe.”

First round victory speech on April 23, 2017

Le Pen

“The primaries have shown that debates on secularism or immigration, as well as on globalization or widespread deregulation, constitute a fundamental and transversal cleavage.

“This cleavage no longer opposes the right and the left, but patriots and globalists. In this presidential election, we represent the patriots' camp. What drives us is not the love of money or special interests, but concern for the homeland.”

Speech in Lyons on Feb. 5, 2017



“I do not have a project of happy, naive globalization. I just say: We are in the world.

“France itself, its values, what makes us great, what makes us France is the Francophonie, it is our diplomacy, it is the place we have in the world.

“We are anything but shrinking.”

Interview with France 2 on April 25, 2017

Le Pen

“The great issue of this election is the savage globalization that endangers our civilization.

“The French have a very simple choice: Either we continue on the path of total deregulation, without borders and without protection, with consequences: [business] relocation, unfair international competition, mass immigration, free movement of terrorists…. Or you choose France, the borders that protect our jobs, our purchasing power, our security, our national identity.”

First round victory speech on April 23, 2017

The European Union


“Europe protects. What you are proposing, Mme. Le Pen, is in effect to reduce the purchasing power of the French people…. What you are proposing is economic warfare, and we are neither Switzerland nor South Korea, Mme. Le Pen. The reality of our economic life is that it will mean the destruction of jobs.

“What you are proposing is nationalism…. We have to know where we are coming from, and where this separation [from Europe] will bring us. Nationalism is war.”

Presidential debate April 4, 2017

Le Pen

“I will go negotiate in Brussels to regain control of the essential instruments of sovereignty, without which it is not possible to change things: frontiers, money, economic policy, the supremacy of French law.

“I will then submit this big question of our membership of the European Union to a referendum. It is up to the people and them alone to decide on a subject of this importance….

“The austerity policy imposed on us by the European Union is destroying France.”

Speech at Pageas on April 13, 2017

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