At the end of the campaign, Emmanuel Macron is no longer the master of time

After months of seeing his opponents, including Marine Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Éric Zemmour, broadcast repeatedly on French news channels, the time had finally come for the presidential candidate to be at the center of the Warning.

The problem: this gathering, so close to the election deadline, took place while television channels and radio stations are subject to very specific broadcasting rules.

In the two weeks preceding the election, the media must respect strict equality in the speaking time granted to the twelve candidates for the presidential election.

Broadcasting the entire intervention of candidate Macron (more than two hours of speech) would have required the networks to devote as much time to each of his opponents.

Consequences: most radios and televisions have of course dealt with the event, but by limiting themselves to portions of the speech.

Emmanuel Macron and his entourage would they have gained by anticipating this partisan event, the only one of its kind during the presidential campaign?

Until then, the president was mainly devoted to the management of the war in Ukraine, in particular by multiplying the phone calls to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Candidate Macron visiting Spezet on April 5, in western France, in a crowd bath

Photo: Getty Images / Ludovic Marin

Head of state or candidate?

For several weeks, this emphasis on the role of head of state managing the crisis, which ensured him a great media presence, also seems to have benefited Emmanuel Macron. The president even exceeded 30% of voting intentions in the first round of the election, greatly ahead of his main opponents, including the candidate of the National Rally (RN), Marine Le Pen.

But the gap between Le Pen and Macron in voting intentions is narrowing. The latest polls now point to around 26% or 27% support for Macron, as Marine Le Pen continues to climb in the polls. On the left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, of insubordinate France, is also experiencing a rise.

The fight also seems to be tightening for the second round of the election on April 24, which will see the two candidates who came first in the first round compete.

Emmanuel Macron in an office passes in front of a television.

Emmanuel Macron in the offices of France Inter as candidate Marine Le Pen attacks her opponent’s record on TV.

Photo: Getty Images / Ludovic Marin

A Harris poll published on Monday even raised the possibility that, in a duel between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, the outgoing president will only obtain 51.5% of the vote, against 48.5% for his opponent. As a reminder, Emmanuel Macron had won with more than 32% ahead of Marine Le Pen during their 2017 electoral confrontation.

Many things can still change between now and the second round on April 24 and influence the carryover of the votes of the supporters of candidates who will have been eliminated in the first round. Add to that abstention, which could contribute to the unpredictability of the vote.

Nevertheless, President Macron himself seems to recognize the threat posed by the far right, he who deplores a trivialization of the candidate of the National Rally.

It is true that in recent months, Marine Le Pen, very present on the ground, has not attracted as much attention as some of her opponents.

Since his appearance on the scene last fall, it has been his competitor Éric Zemmour who has attracted a lot of attention. In the Ukrainian file, it is above all the polemicist who has become a candidate, and not Marine Le Pen, who has drawn criticism for past positions favorable to Moscow.

This context, added to a strategy aimed at polishing the image of the candidate, means that, according to the firm Ipsos, 50% of French people today consider Marine Le Pen unsympathetic, whereas they were more than 60% think so five years ago.

Marine Le Pen in front of a stall.

Marine Le Pen of the National Rally meets voters at the market in Haguenau, eastern France

Photo: Getty Images / Sebastien Bozon

The importance of the issue of purchasing power

During this campaign, the RN candidate also seems to have succeeded in imposing herself in debates dear to French voters.

In recent months, we have been able to see it in the context of reports, and the polls confirm it: questions related to purchasing power and the cost of living are the priority of the French in view of the presidential election. The consequences of the war in Ukraine do nothing to reassure voters in this regard.

However, a recent Ipsos poll showed that Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron are neck and neck (32% each) in terms of credibility on the issue of purchasing power.

In response to the inflationary surge, the French government has been offering a discount at the pump since last week. During his big rally on Saturday, candidate Macron also promised a 6,000 euro bonus to workers to help them cope with the rising cost of living.

Will these promises succeed in imposing themselves in the final stretch of the campaign?

Still a leader in voting intentions, the president himself continues to limit the possibility of sharing his message.

Emmanuel Macron refused to participate in a debate with his opponents before the first round.

If the president took part in an interview on public radio at the start of the week, his team however mentioned a scheduling problem to decline an invitation to a major political program on the television channel France 2. The eleven other contenders for the Élysée have yet marched on this set.

Instead of hearing the president being questioned by the presenters, viewers of the public channel will therefore have contented themselves with a rebroadcast of extracts from last Saturday’s rally at La Défense Arena. Rule of media equality obliges.

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