Le Pen and Macron square off tonight in showdown TV debate

Far-right leader and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, Marine Le Pen, acknowledges applauses while holding a bunch of flowers after exit poll results of the first round of the presidential election were announced at her election day headquarters in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, Sunday, April 23, 2017. Polling agency projections show far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron leading in the first-round French presidential election. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

PARIS (AP) — Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are preparing for their one-on-one televised French presidential election debate, with much at stake for both contenders.

They are expected to square off for more than two hours Wednesday in their final showdown before Sunday’s runoff vote.

The latest opinion polls show the pro-EU Macron holding a strong lead over his far-right rival Le Pen.

Macron, who has been criticized for his early celebrations after he finished nearly three points ahead of Le Pen in the first-round vote April 23, needs to convince leftist voters that his pro-business and liberal stance should not deter them from supporting him. Le Pen is expected to hammer home her favorite themes of security and identity.

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SAMUEL PETREQUIN, Associated Press