OPINION

Election campaigns and crafty publicity

Concern about the methods used by the candidates for municipal elections to promote themselves is hardly new. This concern was the reason that, many years ago now, a series of restrictions were set in place regarding pre-election campaigns, including a ceiling on the budgets of candidates for mayor and prefect. And these measures were taken in an effort to guarantee at least rudimentary equality before the law so that the more wealthy candidates (or those with the means to secure funding for their campaign from all manner of vested interests) would not have an advantage over poorer, or more honorable, candidates. However, I doubt whether the actual outcome of this framework of restrictions has justified the aims of those who decided to impose them. For instance, we have seen candidates for general elections preparing a provocatively expensive campaign whose total cost has far exceeded the ostensibly strict limits of the law. But evidently there were no real inspections carried out and, even if there were checks, everything was found to be lawful on paper. But the fact remains that the provocative differences and inequalities of the past have been smoothed out and terms for more equal competition have been laid down. Having said that, this legislative framework featured certain loopholes which have been well exploited. For instance, although certain «celebrity» election candidates may have avoided exceeding the ceiling on their appearances on televised debates, this has not stopped certain presenters from making constant references to their names or to the initiatives they are known to have been involved in. This kind of crafty promotion is very difficult to monitor or control. And, as mentioned before, it is hardly new. But our concern has been rekindled in view of a new «directive» issued by the state broadcasting watchdog in view of forthcoming elections. According to this directive, the producers or presenters of television shows must abandon these roles during the pre-election period if they are putting themselves forward as candidates. This could be problematic for quite a few presenters of news bulletins and morning chat shows.