Europe

France's 11 candidates to face off in major election debate

  • Far-right candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen delivers a speech during a meeting in La Bazoche Gouet, central France, Monday, April 3, 2017. A self-described patriot, Le Pen hopes to extract France from the European Union and do away with France's membership in the shared euro currency.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

    Far-right candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen delivers a speech during a meeting in La Bazoche Gouet, central France, Monday, April 3, 2017. A self-described patriot, Le Pen hopes to extract France from the European Union and do away with France's membership in the shared euro currency. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)  (The Associated Press)

  • Far-right candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen waves to supporters at the end of her speech during a meeting in La Bazoche Gouet, central France, Monday, April 3, 2017. A self-described patriot, Le Pen hopes to extract France from the European Union and do away with France's membership in the shared euro currency. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

    Far-right candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen waves to supporters at the end of her speech during a meeting in La Bazoche Gouet, central France, Monday, April 3, 2017. A self-described patriot, Le Pen hopes to extract France from the European Union and do away with France's membership in the shared euro currency. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)  (The Associated Press)

  • This combination of file photos show the eleven French official presidential candidates: Top from left: Emmanuel Macron, Benoit Hamon, Francois Fillon, Marine le Pen. Middle form left: Jean-Luc Melelchon, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Nathalie Arthaud, Philippe Poutou. Below from the left: Jean Lassalle, Jacques Cheminade, Francois Asselineau. Imagine if Americans elected a president who was neither Democrat nor Republican. France is facing a similarly shocking scenario: As the 11 candidates head into a debate Tuesday, the traditional left-right contenders are overshadowed by rivals pledging to turn today’s system on its head. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Francois Mori, Michel Euler, Jean-Francois Badias, Files)

    This combination of file photos show the eleven French official presidential candidates: Top from left: Emmanuel Macron, Benoit Hamon, Francois Fillon, Marine le Pen. Middle form left: Jean-Luc Melelchon, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Nathalie Arthaud, Philippe Poutou. Below from the left: Jean Lassalle, Jacques Cheminade, Francois Asselineau. Imagine if Americans elected a president who was neither Democrat nor Republican. France is facing a similarly shocking scenario: As the 11 candidates head into a debate Tuesday, the traditional left-right contenders are overshadowed by rivals pledging to turn today‚Äôs system on its head. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Francois Mori, Michel Euler, Jean-Francois Badias, Files)  (The Associated Press)

The 11 candidates in France's presidential race are preparing to face off in a crucial debate Tuesday evening, less than three weeks before the first round of the election.

The debate, scheduled to last three and a half hour on news channels BFM TV and CNews, will focus on three themes: creating jobs, protecting the French people and the country's social model.

Polls suggest independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen are the two top contenders in the April 23-May 7 two-round election.

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon, battered by allegations that he gave his wife and two children government-funded jobs which they never did, is struggling to survive in the race.

He faces charges in the case, and has denied any wrongdoing.