The above is a photograph of one of the candidates in the recent French presidential TV debates on Tuesday this week: Philippe Poutou. I liked his Gallic shrug. You’ll read more about him below. Image cited in sources below, as always.
The second and last French election debate took place earlier this week on Tuesday 4 April 2017 and lasted nearly 4 hours Unlike the last debate in March which had only the 5 main candidates, this one had the full schebang: there were 11 presidential candidates focusing on issues such as how to create jobs, how to protect the French, and what type of social model the candidates seek. It was all quite feisty (I didn’t watch all 4 hours I’ll have you know), with the six lesser known candidates throwing jibes in their plenty at the main 5: all of whom, surprisingly enough (the main 5 that is), managed to retain their cool.
In order to provide a summary, I have to admit that I have looked at A LOT; I literally had to stop myself from looking any further. You don’t have to read them all, especially the French ones (although I have). In fact you don’t have to read any of them as I am going to summarise the salient points for each one, but please do feel free if you are so inclined. I will always include my references anyway.
Here we go then …
First round of presidential elections are in two weeks on 23rd April 2017. The second takes place a fortnight later on 7th May 2017 and will be a choice between the two leading candidates. This presently looks to be a Macron -v- Le Pen contest.
The French have a saying, according to the Guardian: You vote first with your heart (in the first round) and second with your head (when it gets down to the nitty gritty).
4 hours, 11 candidates. The main ones, in order of where they stand presently in the polls: Macron, Le Pen, Fillon, Melenchon and Hamon. There were 6 other lesser knowns.
Macron clashed with Le Pen over her proposal to scrap the euro and return to the franc.
Le Pen was attacked from all sides and claimed ‘political persecution’ to be at the heart of the allegations against her missing EU parliamentary funds to pay Front National party staff.
Fillon was also attacked (mostly by the 6 lesser knowns) for stealing public funds. But it was mainly Le Pen in the spotlight this time: Fillon suffered enough in the first debate last month. Fillon said that he was standing strong and hadn’t been convicted of any offence as yet but that he had been ‘convicted and judged without trial’ by the media.
In terms of who the audience and those watching the televised debate found the most convincing on stage, subsequent opinion polls put the order of preference as follows: (1) Melenchon. He was thought to be the most charismatic, the best orator and the most believable; (2) Macron; (3) Fillon; and then (4) Le Pen.
In terms of the political agenda of each candidate, the polls had a different result: Macron’s was seen to the the best, followed by Melenchon’s and then Fillon’s.
With just over 2 weeks left until the first election, Melenchon did the best, in terms of public opinion, on the public debate platform although Macron emerged as having the best policies. The coverage in Reuters is very similar to that in the Guardian and there is very little of significant difference. The polls in terms of who will win (the ones that I have been following) cannot be considered to be definitive as there are still a large number of undecided voters. Three of the main things on the debate agenda were trade, immigration and security.
Macron said that Le Pen’s nationalist agenda was tantamount to ‘economic warfare’. Fillon said that France needs the EU in order to be able to stand up to the US and China. According to the BBC, the only two who really made any sense were Macron and Fillon, although Melenchon proved to be a very good showman. Le Pen’s stance on French security was that ‘France had become a university for jihadists’.
This one provided some of the most recently updated coverage. It confirmed that after Tuesday, despite an original intention to have a further televised debate on 20th April 2017, 3 days before the first round of voting, France 2 are no longer going to do one. Basically, some of the candidates said they weren’t going to turn up. Melenchon said it was way too close to the first round of elections and he would be busy campaigning (don’t blame him if the 4 hour duration of this debate was anything to go by). In a similar vein, Macron also expressed concern about the date being so close to the first round of elections. Neither Le Pen nor Fillon are interested in attending unless all the others attend. Hamon was quite keen to attend but there’s no point going it alone!
Instead of a further debate, France 2 plan to conduct a 10 minute interview with each of the candidates which will then be broadcast on television; that is, only if all candidates agree to it. If there is no unanimous response in this regard, France 2 will not have any political program that evening.
Macron hasn’t really gained anything from appearing in either one of the two televised debates that have already taken place. Melenchon, on the other hand, came across pretty well. He has climbed higher than the other candidate from the left in the polls: Hamon. Furthermore, compared to the lesser known far left candidates, Melenchon’s ideas weren’t radical in the slightest!
Politico also did a little article with what they perceived to be the main 5 points overall. I’ll list them briefly as follows. If you want it in more detail, refer to the source below.
When it comes to coverage of the French elections, you can’t get much better than this. As I said earlier, I subscribed for the very reason that their coverage was so good (it is also the source I go to for an update on the Opinion Way presidential polls). To justify my expense even further, it’s also quite nice to have a European perspective on the Brexit negotiations going forward and, as I don’t speak any other European language, with the exception of a smattering of German in that I can just about get through the reading of an article, so long as it’s not too complicated. To deviate a while from Tuesday’s debate, I quite liked the comment that Les Echos produced on Theresa May vis-a-vis the Gibraltar/Spain spat. In said article, Les Echos said that when questioned on the Gibraltar/Spain feud, May had: ‘a sechement repondu’: that is to say she ‘dryly responded’. I sense, from this reading, that the French do not really like her all that much.
You’ll see all the sources for Les Echos cited below. I’ll leave it to you to read that if you so desire: for my part, I have summarised some of what they said within the sources. The reportage is not enormously different from the other sources that I have used. It just gives the French perspective; pretty damned useful when it comes to the French elections, if you ask me.
The Financial Times
Brief summary here. Emmanuel Macron accused Marine Le Pen of wanting to start an economic war in relation to her desire to leave the EU and the euro. He said that if France left the EU then it would only make the country poorer. He further suggested that it could lead to war in Europe. You can read the rest if you click on the link in the sources below.
The New Statesman
I’ve included this one too as I thought it was quite funny. So the New Statesman have gleaned 4 main things from the debate but before that, here’s a few other comments. They said that the reason there were 11 candidates in this debate was that they were all pretty miffed at not having been included in the first. The debate in March centred around the 5 main candidates who were/are polling at 10% and above. The other 6 range anything between 0-5%. So this time they were included. It all added to the favour of the whole thing really. The debate had been scheduled for 3.5 hours with each of the 11 candidates being allocated a 17 minute slot in which to perform their political soliloquy. It went on though, for 4 hours, as you know.
Here are their main 4 points:
So that’s it really. But I liked the way that the Statesman concluded their article. They referred to Camus, whose ‘La Peste’ I read at French A-Level (although he was more famous for ‘L’Etranger’). Camus liked the Algerians (the actual Algerians, not the French pieds noir who resided there during colonial times and were really mean about the actual Algerians). He also liked football. From my recollection in fact he was a goal keeper. I think that might be my 4th digression; but that’s okay as it’s in keeping with the NS’s 4 points. So here’s the quote anyway. It’s from ‘L’Etranger’, a copy of which my dad still had hanging around his house from the 1960s until about a year or two ago when I returned it to its original owner, the one he’d pinched it from in his student days: his Irish pal Pat McMahon.
So the quote:
‘The ‘outsider’ who will win France may well find some resonance in another one – Albert Camus’, whose 1942 novel ends on these words: For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my [election] and that they greet me with cries of hate.’
Quite empirical that.
And lastly, here’s an update on the Opinion Way polls since Tuesday night’s debate:
Far left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon has been seen as the most convincing French presidential candidate. 25% of debate viewers said Melenchon was the most convincing candidate, followed by Emmanuel Macron with 21% and Francois Fillon with 15%, an Elabe poll conducted for BFMTV showed. Elabe said on its website it surveyed 1,024 people. (I took a bit of that from Reuters too).
A ‘Le Figaro’ poll after the debate on which candidate was the most convincing showed Fillon at 54%, Melenchon at 16%, Macronat 10% and Le Pen at 6%. Le Figaro was the French newspaper that I used to have delivered during my French A-Level; primarily because it had more pictures in it and more articles that I could pinch for my French oral than the more intellectually left wing and therefore acceptable ‘Le Monde’.
Of course you can continue to keep yourself updated on the Opinion Way polls on the following link:
The Guardian, 4.4.17, French Elections: all you need to know. Gives insight into how the French presidential voting system works and a synopsis of all the candidates who are standing. Also addresses some of the current issues in France:
The Guardian on the debate, 5.4.17. This one less informative overall but talks about one of the lesser known candidates who emerged as ‘the star’ of the show:
Another Guardian article on the debate, 5.4.17. This one is the most informative on the actual debate:
Reuters on the debate, 5.4.17. Similar coverage to the Guardian article above:
BBC on the debate, 4.4.17. Quite good coverage of the debate and what some of the candidates said. Also gives some further internal links to more about the individual candidates and who the presidential elections work:
Politico on the debate, 6.4.17. This is a good one and as the most recently updated, confirms that there will be no further presidential debates prior to the election. Instead, there will be a ten minute interview broadcast 3 days prior to the first round, with each of the 11 candidates; provided that they all consent to be interviewed:
Politico coverage on the debate, as it happened, 4.4.17:
More Politico coverage, 5.4.17. Melenchon was the most charismatic and most convincing of the debate but Macron still perceived to have the best overall agenda:
Politico again, 5.4.17. 5 takeaways from the Presidential debate:
FT comment following Tuesday’s debate, undated, ‘Macron accuses Le Pen of waging economic war’:
New Statesman on the debate, 5.4.17:
Les Echos (the one I use for the poll updates), 6.4.17. What you need to know 2 weeks before the first round. There is LOADS of stuff on here but it’s all in French so you have to be French or be able to read it all. And don’t forget that unless you’re a subscriber, you’re only entitled to view up to 8 articles per month:
Les Echos, 5.4.17. Stuff to know about Hamon’s campaign in great detail. Also gives links to in depth commentary of the debate on many of the political concerns in France at the present time:
Les Echos, 5.4.17. Stuff to know about Melenchon’s campaign in detail:
Les Echos, 4.4.17. This one is quite good. It goes through the key promises of each of the 5 main candidates so you compare the main points without having to go into as much detail as the previous ones do. If you have to choose an article to look at so as to not exceed your monthly quota of free articles, I’d go for this one (unless you’re so passionate about French politics that you really do want all that detail – in which case you’ll probably subscribe, like I did):
Les Echos, 4.4.17. This one talks about what each of the candidates intends to do in order to improve/correct (corriger) the economy. Also within this article are links to the more detailed agendas of each of the candidates:
The jeans and t-shirt guy, courtesy of The Guardian:
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