French presidential election: a wise and respectful debate between Macron and Le Pen

It could not be worse than in 2017. The president of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen, escaped unscathed from the traditional debate between the two rounds which was held on Wednesday evening. Three days before the second round of the presidential election, this debate opposing him to Emmanuel Macron appeared to most French people as a revenge match featuring the same finalists as five years earlier.

The same ? Not quite. At least, that’s what everyone tried to prove throughout these two and a half hours of generally respectful exchanges. If the president of the RN did not experience defeat by K.-O. of 2017, she has rarely been on the offensive except late on security and immigration issues.

Faced with a pugnacious president with a sometimes even dominating gaze, Marine Le Pen seemed to avoid confrontation throughout the first half of the debate, even avoiding looking her opponent in the eye. Faced with the often technical speech of a president fully playing his status as head of state, particularly on international issues, the candidate presented herself as “the president of harmony” and “civil peace”. “We have to sew up France”, she hammered several times. Unlike 2017, she displayed an unfailing seriousness, mainly playing on her proximity to voters.

“Stunting France”?

A sign of a more civilized debate than five years ago, at no time did Emmanuel Macron call Marine Le Pen “extreme right”, as several of his spokespersons have done for two weeks. Referring to their differences, he even spoke of “sincere, respectable disagreements”.

This did not prevent him from personally attacking him on his past sympathies with Vladimir Putin, even recalling the loan that his party had to contract with a Russian bank in 2015 for lack of financing in France. When you talk to Putin, he said, “you talk to your banker”. “We are a poor party, but that is not dishonorable,” she replied.

In a casual tone, the president accused Marine Le Pen of being “a nationalist who wants to stunt France” and secretly take it out of Europe. “You always want to get out of it, but you don’t say so anymore. […] You lie about the merchandise! An accusation to which Marine Le Pen responded by asserting that “there is no European sovereignty, because there is no European people. […] I would like the Commission [européenne] respects European nations and their societal choices. »

The confrontation was particularly sharp on the policy of energy and ecology. “You are climatosceptic,” launched a peremptory president, accusing his vis-à-vis of having a program that “has neither head nor tail.” Denouncing the “catastrophic choice” of wind turbines, Marine Le Pen replied by accusing the president of having “completely changed his mind about nuclear power. […] We wasted 10 years destabilizing a nuclear industry. »

In this debate, the candidates mainly hunted votes on the left, those of candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came third on April 10. According to several polls, two-thirds of its voters are nevertheless likely to abstain.

To convince them, Marine Le Pen defended the maintenance of retirement at 62 and supported the creation of a citizens’ initiative referendum (RIC), a demand made by the Yellow Vests. She also joked about “the Mozart of finance [qui] has a very bad economic record and a social record that is even worse”.

Emmanuel Macron instead tried to seduce the young and Muslim electorate by denouncing in particular Marine Le Pen’s proposal to ban the Islamic veil in public space. “Me, I am for the law of 1905. With me, there will be no prohibition of any religious sign in the public space. […] You will create civil war if you do that. »

“The Meaning of Democracy”

It’s hard to imagine that this two-and-a-half hour exchange could have really disturbed the kind of lethargy that set in in this between-two-rounds. As if, for the most part, everything seemed to be played while the latest polls seemed to widen the lead of Emmanuel Macron (56%) against Marine Le Pen (44%).

A survey carried out at short notice by BFM among its viewers reveals that 59% of them found Emmanuel Macron more convincing, against 39% for Marine Le Pen. According to analysts, a televised debate has never radically changed the outcome of an election, and it should not be different this time. Moreover, in 30 years, the number of spectators of these debates has dropped by half, their audience dropping from around 30 million in the 1980s to around 16 million in 2007.

In conclusion, Emmanuel Macron affirmed that his priority in the next five years will be youth. “The only sovereign is the people, concluded Marine Le Pen […]. We must rediscover the sense of democracy in our country. According to OpinionWay, 14% of voters said they were counting on this debate to determine which candidate they would vote for in the second round, and 12% to find out whether they would even vote on Sunday.

In this much wiser exchange than in 2017, a rare moment of complicity even appeared. “We are much more disciplined than five years ago,” quipped Emmanuel Macron. And Marine Le Pen responds with a smile: “We have aged. »

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