OPINION

Public debate, personal choices

Public debate, personal choices

The election of a French president is an extremely important affair, not only for the French but for every European. The choice between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen is one between very different approaches to the problems of France and (to an even greater extent) the European Union. Macron envisions a strong France in a strong Europe, Le Pen wants a strong France in a weak Europe. The televised debate between the two on Wednesday (which lasted close to three hours) allowed them to set out their ideas, platforms and differences before the voters. In the first round of voting, Macron won 27 percent and Le Pen 24 percent, so this Sunday’s result will be decided by those who did not vote for them, including the 7.7 million (22 percent) who supported left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon. 

The debate was serious and polite, notwithstanding some brief skirmishes. Among the topics: the war in Ukraine and its fallout, the cost-of-living crisis, the European Union, immigration, the pandemic, the loan from a Russian bank to Le Pen’s party, taxation, pensions and health. In a snap poll among those who had watched (conducted by Elabe), 59 percent said they found Macron “more convincing” than Le Pen. Among Melenchon’s voters, this number rose to 61 percent.

The debate was watched by some 15.5 million out of close to 49 million registered voters. Many of the undecided will be influenced by how the mass media and social networks present the debate and the candidates. Polls might predict that Macron will get about 55 percent this Sunday, but the result will be decided by participation (it was 74 percent in the first round) and the subjective judgment of each voter. That’s why Elabe’s poll included questions of a more subjective nature, such as which of the candidates appeared “more arrogant” (50 percent said Macron, 16 percent Le Pen), which one “worried them most” (50 percent said Le Pen, 25 percent Macron). 

However, if there is an upset and Le Pen is elected, this may be attributed largely to one person – the billionaire businessman and publisher Vincent Bollore, whose news media have established extreme right-wing opinion at the center of France’s everyday public debate.