-Article by Alice Ferré
Last Monday, France had its first presidential debate, which opposed Marine Le Pen (extreme right), François Fillon (right), Emmanuel Macron (center), Benoît Hamon (left), and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (extreme-left). The debate aimed to clarify the candidates’ political agendas and ideologies for the France of tomorrow.
A pre-debate polemic occurred as only five of the eleven candidates running for office were invited on the set. TF1, the channel broadcasting the debate, justified this selection between candidates as an “editorial freedom of the channel” and based on polls.
Mr. Fillon, Mrs. Le Pen, and Mr. Macron did not miss the opportunity to criticize the channel for this move as soon as the debate started.
Mr. Fillon, from the right-wing party “Les Républicains,” claimed to be the candidate of national recovery and aims to bring France to the rank of first European superpower in five years.
Mr. Macron, former Secretary of the Treasury under President François Hollande and leader of the newly-founded centrist party “En Marche!”, stated to be the face of a new hope and new methods with “a just, efficient, and hopeful project.”
Mr. Mélenchon, leader of the extreme-left party “France Insoumise,” wishes to end the fifth republic, and thus redraw the Constitution: “The people must reconquer their power, especially on Finance.”
Mrs. Le Pen wants “to be the president of France, and France only,” meaning that she wants the country to leave the European Union. “I don’t wish to be the Vice-Chancellor of Mrs. Merkel,” she said, embracing her habitual rhetoric. “Nothing will be implemented without the people’s explicit consent and deliberate decisions, expressed through referendums,” she added.
Mr. Hamon, from the left party, claimed he would be “a just and honest president,” away from lobbying and self-interested politics.
Mr. Fillon argued for fewer teachers in the workforce, but better paychecks, while Mélenchon and Hamon agreed for more teachers, and Macron for more school hours and a maximum of 12 students per class in Educational Priority Areas.
Mrs. Marine Le Pen advocated for the necessity of a more rigorous learning of French at school and expressed her disapproval of “languages of origins classes,” a statement to which Mr. Mélenchon shouted: “But everyone already speaks French at school!”
Laicity and Radical Islam
Mrs. Le Pen was the first candidate to expose her point of view on one of France’s current and most alarming societal issue. “The reality is that there is a rise in radical Islamism in our country. They are through clothing and alimentary provocations. We need to promote laicity and fight communitarianism,” she said. Mr. Mélenchon stroked again against Mrs. Le Pen, claiming that the establishment of “a clothing police” on the streets would be absurd.
Mr. Fillon appealed to the French Muslim population, urging Muslims to revolt against religious radicalism and help the Republic.
Morality and politics
Mr. Hamon restated his want for eradicating lobbies.
Mr. Fillon argued for a parliamentary commission that would regulate transparency, upon which Mrs. Le Pen attacked him later on because of the recent corruption scandals.
Mr. Melechon stated that “we have to punish the corrupted and the corrupting.”
The revocation of the “Martine Aubry law” on work hours?
Mr. Fillon would like to cancel the law that settles the minimum of work hours to 35 to allow citizens to work more if they want to and be paid for it; which means more negotiations would be allowed in firms.
Mr. Hamon, the self-proclaimed “candidate of the working class,” fights for a universal wage, which would raise the minimum wage, currently 1150 euros, to 1350 euros – to which Mr. Macron claimed it is not a reasonable or realistic plan which would lead to more taxes.
“People have to be able to live; surviving is not an option,” declared Mr. Mélenchon who wants to regularize the Labor Code.
Mrs. Le Pen advocates for “economic patriotism” and a comeback to “a strategic state;” she doesn’t want to favor economic growth and job opportunities in neighboring countries.
Mr. Fillon accused her of causing “economic chaos” by leaving the euro zone.
Today’s polls announce Emmanuel Macron (orange line on the graph below) as the winning candidate although he is facing a slow decline of 1,5 points. Marine Le Pen (black line) has remained constant as the second favorite since March 23. Mr. Hamon remains behind, at the last position (pink line). But the polls’ most surprising finding remains Mélenchon’s (red line) still climbing rate, 3,5 points behind François Fillon’s (blue line) – a first for a party of far-left ideology in France.