April 06, 2017
Could this be a turning point for Le Pen?
There will be no third TV debate ahead of the first round of the French elections. No time and no appetite. The truth is no one wants another surreal scene like the last one. It had all the hallmarks of a reality show rather than a serious political debate. The six small candidates had a field day, and made the big candidates squirm. Candidates promised the sky, and showed no modesty or restraint. And Jean-Luc Mélenchon all of a sudden appeared moderate, and it is no surprise that he got the most attention on social media.
Was this debate harmful for Marine Le Pen? The French press is divided. One of the usual arguments is that the more attacks are directed towards her, the stronger she gets as a anti-system candidate, so Journal du Dimanche. But this time it is different. Thanks to the smaller candidates, Le Pen lost her reputation of being the only radical candidate, writes Françoise Fressoz. About Frexit for example. François Asselineau, credited with 0.5% of the votes, promised to trigger Article 50 if elected. Le Pen’s promise to give herself six months to negotiate with Brussels looks lukewarm by comparison. Asselineau called it a bluff and that she would not get France out of the euro. Nathalie Arthaud and Philippe Poutou attacked her credentials as the candidate defending blue collar workers. They accuse her of using Europe as a diversion while the employers get away. And they also had a go at her using public money for her own purposes and refusing to answer to the police. Jean-Luc Mélenchon also hit her with her abstention in the EP vote over the workers mobility directive back in 2014, which now stands accused of creating distortions in the building and public sectors.
The other question that emerges is whether the strategy of Emmanuel Macron to be open to all sides and to blend them into a programme so that nothing sticks out could eventually turn against him. A revolution, which he promised in the title of his book, is certainly not what we see unfolding here. True, he now has a programme, but it is hard to identify an outstanding idea or to have any fear of it, writes Cëcile Cornudet. If one proposes the French to shake up their system, one needs to put out other benchmarks, but to sharpen up one's profile is risky and could provoke resistance. Macron’s success relies on the idea that he can get into the second round, and that he will then get all the votes from the left and right to avoid Le Pen. But what if this is not the scenario that will emerge from the first round? Can he still walk to the finishing line against someone like François Fillon?