French leaders hold heated TV debate ahead of upcoming election

French political leaders were locked in a heated TV debate on Thursday over issues that included aid for Ukraine ahead of the upcoming lower house election in France.

The first round of voting will take place on Sunday, followed by the second round on July 7.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the snap election for the National Assembly earlier this month. The move came after his centrist coalition was defeated by the French far-right National Rally in the European Parliament elections.

The debate was attended by French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal from the centrist coalition, National Rally leader Jordan Bardella and socialist leader Olivier Faure, who represented the newly formed leftist New Popular Front alliance.

Bardella said he will be the prime minister for all French people, and that he wants to put the everyday lives of the people at the core of public action. He said he will place priority on measures to tackle rising prices and improve security.

Attal said Bardella cannot present himself as a man of unity and appeasement. He said Bardella's party has fielded many candidates in this election who have made racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic comments.

Regarding Ukrainian aid, Bardella said he opposes sending French troops and long-range missiles to Ukraine as he wants to protect France from the risk of escalating tensions with Russia.

Attal stressed the need to support Ukraine, saying a Russian victory would have a grave impact on French security and economy.

A public opinion poll released on Thursday showed the National Rally and candidates with ties to the party could win as many as 260 seats -- triple the number going into the elections.

The survey indicated the New Popular Front alliance could win as many as 210 seats, and become the second largest force in the lower house.

The poll also suggested the centrist coalition may secure as many as 110 seats, losing more than half of its seats in what could be a major blow to Macron.